Pashinyan’s Ankara Visit Used by Turkish Officials to Undermine Diaspora Efforts
There is a good reason why many Armenians around the world reacted negatively to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s unwise decision to attend Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inauguration in Ankara on June 3, 2023.
First of all, it was inappropriate for Pashinyan to attend Erdogan’s inauguration, particularly since as recently as in 2020, Turkish drones killed thousands of young Armenian soldiers during the Artsakh War, and Turkey recruited thousands of Islamist terrorists from Syria to fight against Artsakh. Furthermore, the Ottoman Empire committed the Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians which the Turkish government still denies a century later.
Secondly, since the 2020 War, Turkey has been a staunch military, economic and political ally of Azerbaijan. Several times, Erdogan traveled Azerbaijan and Artsakh, including Shushi, making anti-Armenian statements. As recently as June 13, during his visit to Artsakh, Erdogan announced that Turkey will open a consulate in Shushi, which “would be a message to the world and especially to Armenia.” Erdogan made a similar visit on June 15, 2021, during which he and Pres. Aliyev signed a joint Ankara-Baku “Shushi Declaration.” Erdogan declared that Turkey will cooperate with Azerbaijan in “the restoration of Nagorno Karabakh.” Armenia’s Foreign Ministry condemned Erdogan’s and Aliyev’s visit to Shushi, stating that “these provocative actions clearly reveal that Ankara’s and Baku’s statements on normalization of relations with Armenia and the Armenian people are false and misleading,”
Thirdly, Armenia and Turkey have met several times during the past year and a half to open their mutual border “without any preconditions.” The border is still closed which shows Turkey’s unwillingness to open the border, unless Armenia meets certain preconditions like signing “a peace treaty” with Azerbaijan, allowing a “Corridor” to cross Armenia into Nakhichevan, and dismantling the monument in Yerevan in honor of the avengers of the Turkish masterminds of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey immediately banned from its skies Armenian overflights and threatened further action if the monument is not dismantled.
Fourthly, if Pashinyan had knowledgeable advisors, and if he listened to them, they would have suggested to him that it would have been wiser if he had designated another official to represent him at the inauguration in Ankara. Begging for normalized relations with Turkey is not in Armenia’s interest.
Nevertheless, the damage is done and Turkish officials are shrewd enough to take advantage of Pashinyan’s faux pas.
Sinan Kuzum, Turkey’s Consul General in Los Angeles, sent a very clever letter to members of the California State Assembly and Senate on June 6, taking quick advantage of Pashinyan’s June 3 visit to Ankara, to discredit the lobbying efforts of Armenian-American organizations in California.
Here are excerpts from the Turkish letter: “I am writing to you to inform you about positive developments in Turkish-Armenian relations, as I am aware that you are interested in this issue, considering your statements in the past. Last weekend marked a historical moment in modern Turkish-Armenian relations. On June 3rd, the Armenian Prime Minister, Mr. Nikol Pashinyan, attended the inauguration ceremony of the Turkish President, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following his re-election. On the occasion of the Prime Minister’s visit to Ankara, President Erdogan came together with prominent members of the Armenian-Turkish community, including the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul Sahag II Mashalian. (I enclose herewith a picture taken during this visit where Mr. President is seen with his Armenian counterpart, the Patriarch and other members of the Armenian-Turkish community).”
The Turkish letter continued: “I am bringing this to your attention because I realize that this kind of positive developments are often ignored. Instead, a rhetoric of hatred of my country is prevailing here in Los Angeles and California. Having said that I invite you to consider whether what you are being told by certain groups here in Los Angeles is in line with the reality of the current state of relations between the two countries or not. The Turkish and Armenian governments are making a historic effort to normalize their relations. Please do not turn a blind eye to this effort.”
The Turkish Consul General concluded his letter: “I, therefore, kindly ask you to put these facts into consideration in the future while you are making any statement or taking any decision on Turkish-Armenian issues. This approach would be much more conducive to peace between the Armenian and Turkish people.”
When asked for a reaction, an anonymous high-ranking official in Armenia stated: “Pure opportunism. There is no positive development at all. The negotiations have not yielded any positive results.”
Fortunately, the Turkish Consul General’s letter will have very little effect on California’s legislators. He is just writing this letter to show to his bosses in Ankara that he is doing some work. California legislators are not going to take the forked-tongued words of a foreign diplomat over the wishes of their citizens in California.
We assume that the Turkish Ambassador in Washington has sent a similar letter to members of Congress. Turkish diplomats around the world probably did the same thing in their respective countries.
Armenians cannot blame Turkish diplomats for doing what’s in the best interest of their country, since the Prime Minister of Armenia, Pashinyan, has handed to Turkey this opportunity on a silver platter!