- January 2013
- Yelena Osipova and Fevzi Bilgin
This work sheds light on the multidimensional dispute between Turkey and Armenia and analyzes major stumbling blocks on the way of rapprochement and reconciliation between the two countries. The most prominent issue is the nature of the particular actions by the Ottoman government in 1915 regarding Armenians and whether those should be designated as a genocide. This historical conflict feeds into the existing strategic and geopolitical context of the region. The ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno Karabakh has further complicated the Armenian–Turkish relations.
Regarding the events of 1915, Armenia and Turkey subscribed to competing and irreconcilable narratives. While the Armenian side claims a genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman government during the World War I, the Turkish side denies this claim, and considers the events of 1915 within the context of World War I, a conflict that brought a tremendous cost to Ottoman Armenians and Muslims alike. This project does not argue for or against any of these narratives, but acknowledges the importance of both sides adopting a more pragmatic approach to the issue and dealing with its present ramifications, all the while being sensitive to painful historical memories.
Given the challenges experienced during the failed rapprochement talks between Armenia and Turkey in 2009-2010, this study offers a multi-tiered approach to reconciliation. Reconciliation efforts must take into account geopolitical dynamics and diaspora interests, and utilize public and social media diplomacy. The study reiterates the need for reconciliation given the current tension and the approaching centennial of the 1915 events, which may turn into a window of opportunity. Both governments need to take the lead in establishing dialogue and bringing their respective societies together; yet, those steps should not be limited to the government level or official initiatives. Furthermore, active steps on both sides can demonstrate goodwill and willingness to reach compromise. Frequent and long term cultural–academic exchanges can provide an initial step in laying the groundwork for wider public diplomacy initiatives, while expanding the range of current collaborative projects and initiatives will help engage a wider public in the process of reconciliation. It is also imperative that such initiatives involve the Armenian and Turkish Diasporas in Europe and the United States. Finally, it is important to involve, in some capacity, the Azerbaijani people and their expatriates abroad, in the process as well. Recognizing the multi-faceted nature of the Turkish-Armenian dispute will, ultimately, help design more applicable and viable projects aimed at bringing about reconciliation and resolution.