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December 26, 2011, Monday

Turkish citizenship for Armenian diaspora

Existing policies give us no hope for progress in solving the chronic problems between Turkey and the Armenian diaspora and Armenia. In this context, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu gave hints about Ankara’s new perspective concerning the Armenian diaspora. Speaking at the 4th Annual Ambassadors Conference held in Ankara on Dec. 23, Davutoğlu kicked off a new era in which each individual who migrates abroad from Anatolia will be considered part of the Turkish diaspora.

Yerevan is not in the least inclined to recognize Turkey’s territorial integrity. Nor is it willing to review its “genocide” theses. Also, it shows no intention to withdraw from the Azerbaijani territories it has occupied. On the contrary, it tries to distract Baku, which does not intend to resort to the military option, with endless talks and, in the meantime, absorb the Azerbaijani territories.

Armenia is also not inclined to develop a new initiative regarding Turkey. Meetings between Turkish and Armenian aquaculture-related civil society organizations or photos depicting them together with smiling faces are of no use. Yerevan’s bureaucratic oligarchy, inherited from the Soviet era, continues to survive. Yerevan’s nomenclature needs the “fear of Turks” in order to keep the Armenian people under pressure.

This applies also to the Armenian diaspora, which needs “anti-Turkish” sentiments to create a different past and a different identity that would make it possible for them to live as a Christian community without being assimilated by other Christian societies in Europe, and in Latin and North America.

And Ankara is tired of extending a hand of friendship to Yerevan with no avail. Therefore, Turkey will not open the border crossings to Armenia unless the latter withdraws its troops from Azerbaijani territories under Armenian occupation.

Moreover, Turkey and Azerbaijan have failed to develop a common Armenian policy. Despite the fact that some 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories are under Armenian occupation, that the border crossings between Turkey and Armenia remains closed, that Armenia accuses Turkey of committing genocide, that Armenia does not respect Turkey’s territorial integrity, that Turkey faces terrorist attacks from Armenians, that every year a new parliament passes a bill recognizing Armenian claims, that the Armenian diaspora conducts activities hostile to Turkey and Azerbaijan, despite all that, the two countries have been unable to come up with a joint Armenian policy. They have failed to establish a common fund. They have been unable to set up a common strategy center. They have not been able to hold joint conferences or meetings and they could not encourage joint studies.

Under these circumstances, how can we expect a new rapprochement between Ankara and Yerevan and the Armenian diaspora?

New policies should not start with an emphasis on recent tragic developments between Turks and Armenians, but should emphasize the thousands of years of close and friendly ties between the two nations. They should be maintained with ties of kinship. In this scope, Armenians working in Turkey as well as the Armenian diaspora in South and North America, Europe and the Russian Federation as well as Armenian citizens should be issued residence permits and, if they want, Turkish citizenship. The children of Armenians working in Turkey may be admitted to Turkish schools. Undergraduate and graduate state scholarships may be provided to students who are Armenian citizens. Such moves may ensure a rapprochement between the Armenian people and Turkey and the Turkish people.

Indeed, Armenians and their intellectuals are tired of the authoritarian and repressive rule in Yerevan. Armenians’ desire for democracy and well-being is increasingly getting stronger. The Armenian people seek to get closer to Turkey without denying their past. The normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia is not an economic but a political project. Turks, Armenians and Azerbaijanis, who had been living in peace over the last millennium, should not allow their recent problems to overshadow their common future.

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