On Thursday, December 11, a lecture on Turkish-Armenian relations, titled "Soccer Diplomacy and the Road Not Taken," was held at Haigazian University.
Haigazian's Student Life Director and Haigazian Armenological Review's executive secretary Antranig Dakessian spoke briefly about the current developments in Turkish-Armenian relations and introduced the speaker, Khatchig Mouradian, editor of the Boston-based Armenian Weekly and a graduate of Haigazian University.
Mouradian first provided the context in which the recent Turkey-Armenia rapprochement happened. During the Russia-Georgia conflict, he noted, traffic was disrupted on an important highway connecting the two countries, stopping vital supplies from reaching Armenia. With the Russia-Georgia standoff unresolved, urgent attention was given in Yerevan to the Turkey-Armenia border, closed by Turkey when the Karabagh conflict erupted. Mouradian also talked about the presidential election in Armenia and how it affected the rapprochement.
The speaker then detailed the political situation in Turkey and the reasons behind Ankara's interest in reaching a breakthrough in Turkey-Armenia relations. After a brief overview of the situation in Turkey, during which he spoke about the role of the Turkish army and bureaucracy and the difficult situation the ruling AK party has found itself in, Mouradian noted that Turkey's interest in a breakthrough could be summarized by one word: genocide.
"With a democratic majority in Congress, and with the prospects of an Obama/Biden victory high, Turkey realized that it is only a matter of time before the U.S. officially recognizes the Armenian genocide," Mouradian said.
Mouradian said, "In Turkey, the hardliners argued that Ankara should avoid normalizing relations with Yerevan before the latter stop pursuing international recognition of the Genocide and withdraws forces from Karabagh. The moderates, on the other hand, argued that the best strategy for Turkey would be to disrupt the harmony between the Armenian state, which has made genocide recognition a foreign relations priority, and the Armenian Diaspora, which has been pursuing genocide recognition worldwide for decades through activism and lobbying." By starting negotiations with Armenia and receiving concessions from it on the genocide recognition front, Mouradian argued, Turkey hoped of creating a schism between the Diaspora and Armenia and undermine the passage of the Genocide Resolution in the U.S.
Mouradian then talked about the inherent asymmetries in the Turkey-Armenia dialogue. He said, "True transformation of Turkish-Armenian relations cannot take place without involving all sectors and levels of the affected population. 'Soccer Diplomacy' was not Turkish-Armenian dialogue-as it was portrayed in the media-it was Turkey-Armenia dialogue and ignored the large and powerful Diaspora that has been the coronary artery of Armenia since its independence."
He concluded, "A great amount of creativity is necessary to address the power asymmetries that are so inherent to this conflict-especially since these asymmetries are the product of the genocide perpetrated by one side and the denial and hostile attitude that continued to define the policies of that side towards the other."