Turkey back to Armenian rapprochement, as French court strikes down “genocide bill”
Turkey looks forward to improved relations with Armenia after a court overturns a French law.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 02/03/12
Now that France's Constitutional Council invalidated a recently passed law that would have criminalised the denial of the mass killing of Armenians in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey is normalising relations with Armenia and hopes for a French "contribution" into it.
Franco-Turkish protesters demonstrate near the Senate in Paris on January 23rd. France's Constitutional Council invalidated a law passed that day that would have criminalised the denial of the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago. [Reuters]
Ankara also expects intensive activity from Paris for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, under the umbrella of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is co-chaired by France itself, as well as Russia and the US, Mustafa Kabakci, ruling AK Party MP and chief of administration of the Turkish Parliament, told SES Türkiye.
"We intend to solve the problems with Armenia, not to create a new trouble, and we expect the same attitude from France," he said, adding that due to speeding-up the regional peace, France should help Armenia solve its problems with Azerbaijan and stop blaming Ankara.
The decision by France’s Constitutional Council could also help reset ties between Turkey and France, after more than one month of frozen bilateral relations since the French Senate passed the law on January 23rd. But Kabakci says the diplomats will determine how to restart political and military meetings with Paris.
Omer Engin Lutem, a veteran Turkish diplomat, who served in France in the 1970s, currently heads the Armenian Research Centre at the Ankara-based Centre for Eurasian Strategic Studies. He explained that although many in Turkey are delighted by the decision of highest court in France, Ankara still doubts that in France the government gave up on the genocide law.
"There is no guarantee that [President Nicolas] Sarkozy won’t try his chances with redrafting the genocide bill," he told SES Türkiye, adding, if passed, the genocide bill would "crumple" the Turkey-Armenian rapprochement.
Karim Emile Bitar, senior fellow at the Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations, said that Turkey and France have significant joint economic and strategic interests; however, "electoral politics and identity politics are preventing a genuine co-operation that would benefit both countries."
"I am afraid that Sarkozy's stands will delay Turkish-Armenian rapprochement and render it more complicated," he told SES Türkiye, adding, things can probably go back to normal after the French presidential elections this summer, "but deep down, something was broken and it will take a while before the wounds heal."
However, some analysts, like Halil Karaveli, a senior fellow with the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Programme, believe, "there is no sign that Turkey is eager to develop a better relationship with France and Armenia."
The government, he said, "is doing absolutely nothing to further Turkish-Armenian understanding; on the contrary it is busy fomenting the worst kind of nationalism."
Just recently, the Turkish interior minister participated at a rally organised in Istanbul to ostensibly commemorate the massacre committed by Armenian forces in Azerbaijani city Khojali 20 years ago. Participants carried placards against Armenians, and the 2007 murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was hailed. "This is an extremely worrying sign," Karaveli said.
For Hilal Elver, Turkish analyst on international law, who is a visiting professor at the University of California, "it is too early to say how things will develop though."
"Now there are very positive feelings about the [French court] decision. As [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu suggested, this decision would be a way to make a reconnection between the Armenian and Turkish governments," she told SES Türkiye, and added, Davutoglu has a reputation for dealing with various conflicts even not directly related with Turkey.
As for Turkey-France relations, she noted the latest developments are "extremely helpful to French business to enter the emerging market of Turkey, as Europe is still struggling with economic crisis".
"These two countries have a lot with each other. Turkey-France relations are too complex and deeper than just to see this from the angle of Armenian genocide. I think the best way to solve this problem is France and other third parties should not interfere in the dialogue between Turkey and Armenia," she said.