Azerbaijani-Armenian relations are moving forward

Azerbaijani-Armenian relations are moving forward

Azerbaijani-Armenian relations are moving forward
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Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan last week made an epoch-making statement in his country’s parliament. He surprised many in Armenia by saying that there is no use in opening maps and dreaming of the lands that were once inhabited partly by Armenians. “We cannot go anywhere,” he said, “if we continue to look out of the window and dream that Mount Ararat, which is now in Turkiye, belonged once to Armenia.”
Armenians have lived under various denominations throughout history. The Kingdom of Armenia reached its zenith under Tigranes the Great in the first century B.C. In the early fourth century, it became the first state to adopt Christianity as its state religion. Later, it became successively part of the Byzantine, Sassanid and Muslim hegemonies. It reinstated its independence under the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia in the 880s. After an interval, an Armenian principality and later a kingdom was established on the Mediterranean coast between the 11th and 14th centuries. In other words, the history of Armenia is like those of many other countries that were formed, flourished and then became smaller as a result of historical facts.
A new era may now be dawning in Azerbaijani-Armenian relations. The first step was taken by Pashinyan ahead of April 24, the anniversary of the 1915 forced relocation of masses of Armenians from Ottoman Constantinople to Syria.
Last week, in his speech to parliament, Pashinyan invited Armenians to stop dreaming of historical Armenia, explaining that the path followed by the country has led it to the present reality. He did not regret the present situation and did not consider it a defeat. He explained: “A state ideology is being developed in Armenia, the core of which is the state, sovereignty and independence.”
Tavush was the place where gunfire was exchanged two years ago between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Now, a new road is being built there and Pashinyan described it as “a path from historic Armenia to real.” With this reference, he implied that Yerevan has abandoned any claim over Nagorno-Karabakh to pursue rapprochement with Azerbaijan.
The historical background of the controversy between Turkiye and Armenia goes back more than a century. When the Ottoman forces were at war on many fronts, an Armenian militia carried out attacks on Turkish military units, cut the army’s communication lines and was accused of stealing ammunition and weapons before delivering them to the Russian units with which the Turks were at war. As if this was not enough, Armenian gangs resorted to a rebellion in the eastern province of Van in the April and May of 1915.
The ruling Ottoman Committee of Union and Progress decided to forcibly relocate the Armenians to Syria. The numbers of those who were relocated and who perished during the relocation are contested. Turkiye was not the only country that resorted to such a measure. During the Second World War, the US relocated American citizens of Japanese origin from their West Coast homes to internment camps in remote areas. 

It is easy to preach to the government of Armenia without bearing the responsibility of difficult decisions.

Yasar Yakis

According to the information made available in 1922 by the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, 817,000 Armenians left Ottoman territory. This figure includes those who merely ceased to be Ottoman citizens. The figures are also controversial regarding those who perished during the relocation. Natural deaths, attacks on the convoys, famines, sicknesses, hardships during the relocation and many other factors resulted in the high number of casualties. The figures vary from one source to another, but one report from 1916 stated that 600,000 Armenians died or were killed during the deportations.
This year’s commemoration was not like an exchange of blame between Turkiye and Armenia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement remembering with respect the Ottoman citizens of Armenian descent who lost their lives and extended his condolences to their descendants. He continued by saying: “It is important to address history under the guidance of wisdom, conscience and science, instead of favoring a radical discourse, marginalization and hate speech … We believe that the way to protect future generations from the spiral of violence and war encircling the world is to build a future together in the light of the lessons we have learned from our common pain.”
In line with this responsible attitude, Pashinyan’s government took concrete steps to solve the border demarcation problem with Azerbaijan. On the day of the commemoration, he still used the words “Medz Yeghern,” meaning “Great Calamity,” but did not elaborate very much.
The transfer of four villages from Armenia to Azerbaijan was agreed on Friday. They are Baghanis Ayrum, Ashaghi Askipara, Kheirimli and Ghizilhajili. The Russian maps are being taken as a basis for the borders.
Two weeks ago, the Lemkin Institute, operating in the US, issued a statement harshly criticizing the comments made by Pashinyan during the commemoration. By doing so, the institute sides with those think tanks that complicate the task of the Armenian government. It is easy to preach to the government without bearing the responsibility of difficult decisions.
Years ago, Pashinyan used to say that Armenian businessmen will conquer the world. This statement is still valid today. Armenian businessmen in Turkiye have a reputation for doing fair business. What is needed is mutual trust.

Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkiye and founding member of the ruling AK Party.
X: @yakis_yasar

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