Angered by Turkish Criticism over Gaza, Israel May Recognize Armenian Genocide
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Enraged by the abrasive tone of Turkey's condemnation of Israel's attack on
Gaza, Israeli officials and Turkish analysts are now raising the possibility
that Tel Aviv may retaliate either by recognizing the Armenian Genocide or
refusing to help Turkey to lobby against a congressional resolution on the
This unexpected turn of events was in response to Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Erdogan's continued harsh criticisms, accusing Israel of "perpetrating
inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction. Allah will sooner or
later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents." Erdogan qualified
Israel's attack on Gaza as "savagery" and a "crime against humanity." He also
refused to take calls from Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and rejecteda
request by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to visit Ankara.
Israel initially downplayed the hostile comments emanating from Turkey. The
Jerusalem-based DEBKAfile reported that "a deep crisis in Turkish-Israel
relations appears to be the first strategic casualty of Israel's offensive to
suppress Hamas' rocket campaign." An Israeli Foreign Ministry official told
Turkey's ambassador to Israel that such harsh words were "unacceptable" among
friendly nations. Another Israeli official added: "It would be necessary toevaluate
the damage to the relationship that these [Erdogan's] comments have caused."
In a January 5 editorial, the Jerusalem Post escalated the level of Israeli
displeasure by questioning Turkey's credibility on passing judgment on other
countries: "On balance, we're not convinced that Turkey has earned the right to
lecture Israelis about human rights. While world attention focuses on Gaza,
Turkish jets have bombed Kurdish positions in northern Iraq. Over the years,
tens of thousands of people have been killed as the radical PKK pursues its
campaign for autonomy from Turkey. Kurdish civilians in Iraq complain regularly
that Ankara's air force has struck civilian areas where there is no PKK
activity. The next Israeli government should weigh whether Israel can accept as a
mediator a country that speaks, albeit elliptically, of our destruction.
Meanwhile, if Turkey persists in its one-sided, anti-Israel rhetoric, the Foreign
Ministry might consider recalling our ambassador in Ankara for consultations."
Finally, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Majalli Whbee angrily lashed back
at the Prime Minister of Turkey. Several Turkish media outlets quoted Whbee
as stating: "Erdogan says that genocide is taking place in Gaza. We [Israel]
will then recognize the Armenian related events as genocide." Whbee, a member of
the Israeli Knesset and a close confidante of Prime Minister Olmert, issued
the following warning to Turkey: "We, as Israel, hope that Prime Minister
Erdogan's statements will not damage our relations. But, if Turkey does notbehave
fairly, this will have its consequences."
While it is unlikely that Israel would reverse its long-standing refusal to
acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, it may decide not to accommodate future
Turkish requests to have American Jewish organizations to lobby against a
congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide.
Commentator Yigal Schleifer explained in his EurasiaNet article that Erdogan
may "find himself walking a tightrope when it comes to distancing Turkey from
Israel. Ankara has long depended on Israel to act as a conduit to Washington
and to American Jewish organizations who have frequently acted as a kind of
surrogate lobby for Turkey in Washington. In the past, Jewish organizationshave
been instrumental in helping Turkey block efforts to introduce resolutions in
Congress recognizing the Armenian genocide of 1915. 'There is real anger with
Erdogan on Capitol Hill and among people who follow Turkey in Washington,'
says a Washington-based consultant who closely monitors Turkish affairs. 'Nobody
is threatening anything right now, or knows if there are going to be
repercussions, but this is going to have an effect.' Adds the consultant: 'There is a
sense that Erdogan has used up a lot of good will.'"
The Turkish newspaper, Hurriyet, in a January 9 editorial, tried to downplay
the consequences of the Turkish anger at Israel, by stating that the latter
hopes "the Jewish lobby in the United States" will ensure, through its clout on
issues such as preventing Armenian genocide bills, that Turkey falls in line=80¦.
It is suggested that if Turkey does not fall in line, that same lobby will
punish her by refusing to help on this score, or even by ensuring that such
Turkish columnist Barcin Yinanc described in Hurriyet the absurd situation
Turkish leaders will find themselves in a couple of months: "When April comes,
I can imagine the [Turkish] government instructing its Ambassador to Israelto
mobilize the Israeli government to stop the Armenian initiatives in the U.S.
Congress. I can hear some Israelis telling the Turkish Ambassador to go talk
to Hamas to lobby the Congress. Erdogan's harsh statements against Israel have
certainly not gone unnoticed in Israel=80¦. I am sure the Israeli government as
well as the Jewish lobby in America will not forget these statements."
Turkish leaders may wish to remember that the last time they irritated a
prominent Jewish-American congressman, he retaliated by supporting congressional
action on the Armenian Genocide. Cong. Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor anda
staunch opponent of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, surprised
everyone in 2005 when he voted in favor of a congressional resolution on the
Armenian Genocide in the House International Relations Committee. Lantos disclosed
that he was backing the Armenian resolution in order to teach the Turks a lesson
for not supporting the U.S. on the eve of the Iraqi War.
In the coming days, Turkey's relations with Israel may further deteriorate
as Turkish politicians, journalists, and leaders of non-governmental
organizations urge Erdogan to go beyond mere words and expel Israel's Ambassador from
Ankara, recall Turkey's Ambassador from Tel Aviv, cancel all military and
economic agreements with Israel, and ban overflights by Israeli pilots in Turkish
airspace. Erdogan may resort to such punitive actions in order to appease
widespread anti-Israel anger by large segments of the Turkish public prior to local
elections which are critical for his ruling political party.
Karabakh Borders: De jure, de facto, de TV
By Naira Hayrumyan
ArmeniaNow Karabakh reporter
Published: 09 January, 2009
In December of 2008 representatives of Karabakh’s youth organizations sent a letter to
Armenian president Serjh Sargsyan asking him to use his influence to have “weather
forecasts” on Armenian TV channels quit using maps in which Armenia and Karabakh are
shown within the borders they had in 1988. On these maps Nagorno Karabakh is presented
within the borders of former Autonomous Region of Nagorno Karabakh (ARNK, as a part
of Azerbaijani SSR) and Lachin corridor (connecting Armenia and NKR) isn’t there at all.
For 20 years Karabakh has had no connection to Azerbaijan, has been building an i
ndependent – if unrecognized – statehood, establishing interstate relations with Armenia,
meanwhile Armenia hasn’t decided yet whether or not to recognize Karabakh’s independence.
Despite the letter being actively circulated on the Internet, Armenian TV channels, however,
did not pay much attention to it (except for Yerkir Media TV). Being unable to decide which
map to use in their weather forecast programs and in order to avoid any complications on
border issues they keep using the 1988 map as if the last 20 years have not existed at all.
Does the government have a unanimous
standpoint and conception on the Karabakh
issue settlement? On December 3, Heritage
faction deputy Larisa Alaverdyan raised the
issue in the parliament of Armenia, to which
Prime-Minister Tigran Sargsyan responded
by admitting that such a problem does exist.
Alaverdyan pointed out that during weather
forecast Armenian TV channels demonstrate
a map on which there is no linking line between
Armenia and Karabakh, and Karabakh is shown
within the borders of former ARNK. Alaverdyan
stated that it’s not simply a distortion of reality,
but also a violation of NKR Constitution and
legislation, according to which NKR sovereignty
applies to its current administrative territory.
The letter by NKR youth organizations says that “the war crossed out artificial and unviable
borders of ARNK forced upon the Armenian people”, and that “the NKR Constitution adopted
as a result of the referendum held in 2006, consolidated sovereign borders of the Armenian
land liberated at the cost of blood of the best sons of our nation”.
“The fact of ignoring one way or another -be it ideologically or in real politics- the victory of the
Armenian nation and its results not only disregards the memory of fallen heroes, but also
encourages a new armed aggression against the Armenian statehood,” says the letter.
A few days later a number of Armenian NGOs and individuals joined the statement of youth
organizations by sending an open letter to the heads of Armenian mass media.
The authors of the letter state that 14 years after calling a truce a peculiar situation has formed:
the objective reality of including those regions into NKR, which once were a part of Azerbaijani
SSR, is not anyhow reflected in Armenian mass media, commercials or brochures. NKR is
either absent from maps or is shown within the borders of former ARNK.
“Such maps are a violation of Article 142 of NKR Constitution according to which ‘until the
integrity of the state territory of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh is restored and borders
are precisely defined public authority is implemented on the territory which is de facto under
the jurisdiction of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh’ ,” quotes the letter.
The letter further calls upon mass media not to avoid showing the acting real borders, actively
cover life on the liberated lands and inform citizens of Armenia about the strategic role of those
lands (the letter had 62 signatures).
The issue of maps has been important since the very beginning of the Karabakh conflict, and
ever since Internet came along it has become urgent. Armenian websites demonstrate a
surprising tolerance by posting maps where Karabakh is a part of Azerbaijan. On brochure
maps produced by many tourism agencies printed in Armenia the borders of Karabakh do not
match today’s reality.
Meanwhile, maps and catalogues produced abroad are more accurate, so much that Azerbaijan
is putting up a struggle against them. Day.az site posted a list of travel SIM cards on which Karabakh
is shown as a part of Armenia or as a separate country. Those are: GSM-Travel, SIMTRAVEL, Travel
International SIM Card, produced by In Touch company, Smart cards (USA), travel SIM cards produced
by telecommunication company Oneroam (Great Britain), GO-SIM™ cards, GLOBALSIM cards,
produced by HBSGlobal and many others; the list was a full 5 pages long.
So the situation arises in which Azerbaijani channels in their daily weather forecast speak about
Karabakh as their inseparable part, and Armenian channels, by default, confirm.
Armenian Opposition Insists On Release Of `Political Prisoners'
By Anush Martirosian and Ruzanna Stepanian
The Armenian authorities will not only avoid Council of Europe sanctions
but pave the way for dialogue with their political opponents if they
release dozens of opposition members remaining in prison, a top aide to
opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian said on Monday.
Meanwhile, the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) remained
hopeful that the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) will
not suspend the voting rights of its Armenian members at its upcoming
session in Strasbourg.
The PACE's Monitoring Committee urged the 47-nation assembly last month
to impose the sanctions, saying that Yerevan has failed to fully comply
with two PACE resolutions on Armenia that were adopted in April and June
2008. The resolutions demanded, among other things, the immediate
release of more than 100 Ter-Petrosian loyalists arrested in the wake of
the February 2008 presidential election on `seemingly artificial or
politically motivated charges.'
Some 70 oppositionists, including Ter-Petrosian's election campaign
chief and three parliament deputies, remain in jail. The Monitoring
Committee for the first time described them as `political prisoners' in
a major blow to the credibility of government allegations that the
Armenian opposition attempted to stage a coup d'etat. Its two Armenia
rapporteurs are due to arrive in Yerevan later this week for last-minute
negotiations with government and opposition representatives.
Levon Zurabian, a leading member of Ter-Petrosian's Armenian National
Congress (HAK) alliance, said President Serzh Sarkisian and his
governing coalition still have time to spare Armenia embarrassing
sanctions that have rarely been imposed on Council of Europe member
states. He said they also have a chance to dramatically ease lingering
post-election tensions in the country.
`There is one obvious step which is demanded by the international
community, our society and which can drastically change the political
atmosphere in Armenia,' Zurabian told RFE/RL. `That is the liberation of
the political prisoners. After the liberation of the political prisoners
the situation in and outside [the country] will change.'
`We would at last be able to sit at the negotiation table and discuss
ways of overcoming this political crisis,' he said, reaffirming the main
opposition precondition for dialogue with the government camp.
The Armenian authorities have consistently denied the existence of
political prisoners in the country. They also claim to have mainly
complied with the PACE resolutions.
`I think the authorities led by the president have done quite a lot to
avoid sanctions,' said Eduard Sharmazanov, a spokesman for the ruling
HHK. `I regard as dim the prospect of Armenia losing its voting right
because I have seen no serious grounds for that.'
Sharmazanov at the same time appeared to play down the significance of
the sanctions threatened by the PACE. `If the Republic of Armenia loses
its right to vote in that structure, that will not stem from its
interests,' he told journalists. `But I am not of the opinion that if we
are deprived of our vote an era of darkness will start and it will be
the end of the story.'
Samvel Nikoyan, a senior HHK parliamentarian, similarly said in a
newspaper interview published on Friday that the loss of the PACE vote
would not be a `tragedy' for Armenia. `We must think about the stability
of our country, our society, the internal atmosphere, rather than
whether or not we will be stripped of our right to vote,' he told the
However, another, more influential HHK figure, parliament speaker Hovik
Abrahamian, considers the punitive action threatened by the PACE to be
`extremely damaging' for Armenia. In a December 30 letter obtained by
RFE/RL on Monday, Abrahamian urged fellow speakers from other Council of
Europe member states to use their influence to prevent the sanctions. He
said they would undermine `internal stability' in Armenia and even hurt
Government To Restart Forced Sale Of Armenian Firm
By Ruben Meloyan
Armenian authorities have secured a fresh court permission to auction
off a company owned by an opposition-linked businessman and
controversially accused of large-scale tax evasion.
The Bjni mineral water plant was put up for sale recently after failing
to pay 4.2 billion drams ($13.5 million) in fines imposed by tax
authorities. An Armenian court upheld the hefty penalty on October 10
before security forces raided the company's premises in the central town
of Charentsavan and forced it to halt its operations.
The Armenian Justice Ministry's Service for the Mandatory Execution of
Judicial Acts (SMEJA) decided afterwards to sell off Bjni's assets in
payment for the fines. The electronic auction began on December 19 but
was suspended by another court several days later. The court order came
in response to a bankruptcy lawsuit filed by an obscure construction
firm that claimed to be owed money by Bjni.
According to the SMEJA, the court refused to declare the bottler
bankrupt on December 30, giving the authorities the green light to start
the forced sale anew. A spokesman for the SMEJA, Ruben Grdzelian, said
the auction will resume on January 23. `All the parties have already
been informed about that,' he told RFE/RL.
But Ara Zohrabian, a Bjni lawyer, said the company has not received such
a notification. He also alleged other procedural violations by the
Bjni is one of a dozen companies making up the SIL Concern group owned
by tycoon Khachatur Sukiasian and his extended family. Most of them were
inspected by tax officials and charged with evading millions of dollars
in taxes shortly after Sukiasian publicly welcomed former President
Levon Ter-Petrosian's September 2007 return to active politics.
The Sukiasian family claims to have been the victim of a `political
vendetta' waged against it the Armenian authorities. But the latter deny
any political motives behind the crackdown.
The SMEJA attracted no bids for Bjni from local or foreign companies
during the first auction. None of Bjni's domestic competitors has
publicly expressed an interest in buying it. The government's asking
price for the company is 4.9 billion drams.