As Turkey reacts stridently to the participation of the Russian, French, Serbian and Cyprian presidents in the events commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire on April 24, the relations of Armenia and Turkey appear to have deteriorated again. Nevertheless, the situation is quite different when it comes to social ties. The commemorations of that tragic anniversary held in Turkey (mainly in Istanbul) showed that the relations of the two societies are developing, say Armenia’s civil society actors who actively communicate with ordinary citizens in Turkey. Some of them are even members of the consortium of eight civil society organizations from Armenia and Turkey that has launched the Support to the Armenia-Turkey Normalization Process program funded by the European Union under the Instrument for Stability.
Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan, the director of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation Armenia, says Armenia-Turkey relations may deteriorate, given Ankara’s strident reaction. On the other hand, he believes the Armenian-Turkish normalization may be given a new momentum after the upcoming parliamentary elections in Turkey.
“The sides may launch new negotiations, but there is little probability of success, as Recep Tayyip Erdogan (president of Turkey – editor’s note) is an unpredictable political figure,” Ter-Gabrielyan said pointing at Erdogan’s latest threats against the Armenian community of Turkey.
Although there are no state contacts between Armenia and Turkey, public contacts continue to develop dynamically. “New opportunities for development of the relationships have been created. There are new ideas and opportunities for deep discussions between the two civil societies. It is an important circumstance, as public discussions have an impact on the political agenda,” he says.
Hayk Ashramyan, program coordinator at the Center for Regional Studies, got an insight into the Armenian Genocide Centennial events held in Istanbul. “ On April 24, Istanbul hosted a great number of guests. It is noteworthy that along with them and the local Armenians, a great number of Turks and ethnic Kurds joined the events. The local police took all the necessary measures for safety of the participants in case of possible provocations,” he says.
His views, inherently, coincide with the stand on Cengiz Aktar, a Turkish writer and political analyst who has recently told EADaily that there is no longer single Turkey when it comes to the perception of the Armenian Genocide, there are “many Turkeys.” “The Turkish public issplit. There are several ‘sub-societies.’ There is the official stand of Turkey and there are subgroups – academic circles, the youth, civil society activists, who think differently. It is a serious change,” Aktar said.
Meanwhile, turkologist Levon Hovsepyan says the number of people in Turkey who recognize the Armenian Genocide is not big enough to influence Ankara’s official stand. He recalls that Erdogan tries to meet the expectations of the nationalists who are “the main voters” of the ruling Justice and Development Party.
“In this light, I think recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey depends not only on changes in the Turkish public, but also on the pressure of the world community through recognition of the genocide. There is a very important circumstance: if Germany – Turkey’s ally in the WWI that has its part of responsibility for the massacre of the Armenian people – recognizes the Genocide (the country is currently discussing the issue – editor’s note), Turkey will no longer be able to maneuver and deny its responsibility,” the analyst said.