Thursday, April 23, 2009

The new TARC? Meaning of 4/22 statement

Two days before April 24, Armenia and Turkey issued a joint statement saying they are committed to talking to each other. The statement contains no contours or timeframe for these talks, but it helps neutralize third party pressure on Turkey with regard to its genocide denial and border closure against Armenia.

Coming on eve of April 24 it is essentially a fig leaf for President Obama to be able to obviate his repeated pre-election pledges to recognize the genocide with some pretense of Armenian rationale.

So if Turkey neutralizes the annoying resolutions and Obama gets his fig leaf, what does Armenia get?

Nothing good as far as one can see right now. May be an invitation for Serge Sargsian to visit Washington? May be. (Biden did call him on Monday and has since refused to give a public readout.)

But this is an awfully high price to pay considering this contributes to eroding Sargsian's legitimacy at home. And besides, without clearly outlined foreign policy priorities a visit to U.S. is likely to be just protocol and tourism.

One immediate effect of this action is renewed domestic and national acrimony on the Armenian-Turkish issue along the lines of what followed the announcement of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) in 2001.

Dashnaks and Heritage have already condemned the statement and ARF is threatening to leave the coalition. Hanrapetakan, Bargavach (for now) and anti-ARF groups in diaspora are supporting it. U.S. Ambassador just met LTP and most likely got his endorsement as well (at least there was a lukewarm comment by Hovik Igitian - LTP's spokesman in Europe).

One possible positive outcome of this development could be a political realignment in Armenia and creation of a credible patriotic opposition ahead of the elections for Yerevan city council. That remains to be seen.

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