Turkish President Erdogan’s visit to the United States highlights how the Armenian genocide is constantly weaponized in international diplomacy, says Khatchig Mouradian, lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University.
France24 Anchor: For more let’s go to New York City Khatchig Mouradian on his lecture at Columbia University. Your upcoming book The Resistance Network, The Armenian Genocide and humanitarianism in ottoman Syria during World War I. Thank you for speaking with us here on France 24.
Khatchig Mouradian: Thank you for having me.
France24 Anchor: Your reaction to this resolution.
Khatchig Mouradian: My general sense is that this resolution has been a long time coming. There has been, for decades now, a need and a push for the recognition of the Armenian genocide in the United States Congress. And the main obstacle has been, a constant pressure, particularly from the administration, and this is a bipartisan pressure that has been present over the past three decades, more than three decades. Presidents, Clinton, Bush, Obama, all have weighed in at three different occasions to stop a vote on the Armenian Genocide resolution. That particular approach, that particular pressure and Vito has been lifted in light of recent developments in Northern Syria, allowing Congressional leaders across the board, bipartisan, to vote for this resolution that passed overwhelmingly yesterday.
France24 Anchor: You’ve written an opinion piece in the Washington Post where you denounced the bipartisan sport of killing Armenian Genocide bills and weaponizing the suffering of the victims. It’s always whenever it happens, and you describe those different cases, it’s because it’s being leveraged against other issues having to do with us turkey relations?
Khatchig Mouradian: Absolutely, and the leveraging, particular the Turkish pressure is very well documented and reported, you know newspapers, media, typically go to Great Lengths talking about Turkish pressure millions of dollars, of lobbying, you know funding that goes to lobbying groups. What is, however, less discussed is the agency of the United States leadership. I think that the United States as well, Washington as well, have used at different opportunities, The Armenian Genocide as a bargaining chip has weaponized it is negotiations and discussions with turkey. It’s important to acknowledge this fact. And today my argument in the Washington Post was that it is important for this issue to be acknowledged, for the Armenian Genocide to be acknowledged, and once and for all for this issue to be resolved and settled, as opposed to being constantly weaponized and utilized in international diplomacy.
France24 Anchor: Yeah, because turkey is a NATO ally of the United States is So there’s a lot of interests on both sides. So The U.S. Treading carefully in the past. What does it tell you the fact that at this point in time The U.S. is ready to recognize the Armenian Genocide? How low are U.S. turkey relations?
Khatchig Mouradian: Just a look at the votes and the discussions yesterday, really, you know, presents a very Grim image of The U.S. Turkey relations. They are at a little point, and it’s important to note that this particular environment, as I said earlier, has resulted in the passing of these two resolutions, but equally important is the fact that again these resolutions have had bipartisan support for a very long time. What has been an obstacle, has been essentially deferring to the administration on issues of foreign relations and diplomacy and the administration as you cited, as you mentioned, being very careful and treading carefully on this, and sometimes for example, very recently, one of the options that were presented to President Trump, as Newsweek reported, in terms of deterring Turkey From an incursion into Northern Syria, was the threat of recognizing The Armenian Genocide. Again an example of you know, using the Armenian genocide in these negotiations as far as the United States is concerned.
France24 Anchor: And yet the red carpet is going to be rolled out next month for President Erdogan when he visits the White House, what do you make of that and how will that visit go?
Khatchig Mouradian: Well, at this point it seems like President Erdogan himself has cast some doubt on that, quite possibly in order to apply more diplomatic pressure and to try to prevent further actions towards Ankara. I do know that the administration, it does seem clear that the administration is willing to push forward on that front in terms of the visit, but at the same time, it is also clear that there will be protests, Demonstrations in Washington as Erdogan arrives in light of the current situation in Northern Syria. It’s important to note that I was just listening to the reporting, Ras ul Aine For example, one of the locations which is one of the main spots of conflict today, has been one of the central sites, locations of the destruction of the Armenian population during World War 1. So the destruction of the Armenians cast a very long Shadow, and what is happening today in Northern Syria very much is an echo of that, in many regards, and I do believe that it is an opportunity to President Erdogan’s visit to the United States is another opportunity, to highlight in the dangers of what is going on right now in Northern Syria and the possible ethnic cleansing that will have tremendous ramifications in the region catchy.
France24 Anchor: Khatchig Mouradian, one final question, this goes well beyond Recep Tayyip Erdogan or the AK party there is still in 2019 this resistance upon many Turks when it comes to recognizing the slaughter of hundreds of thousands as a genocide. Why why is that?
Khatchig Mouradian: One of the major impediments has been the fact that you know, after decades and decades of denial, it is very difficult to come to terms with the past. It is also important to note that Turkey is very worried about what would follow an acknowledgment, reparations for the utter dispossession and destruction of an entire nation. It’s important to note that Assyrians Greeks and others were also affected, and victims of the genocide, so these are important significant impediments, but it’s also important to note that in recent years there has been a lot of, in Turkish Civil Society, a lot of intellectual Scholars, writers who have spoken out on the importance of confronting the past and delivering some measure of Justice to the victims of genocide.
France24 Anchor: Columbia University’s Khatchig Mouradian, and many thanks for speaking with us here on France 24.