By Mariam Pashayan, Crystal Densmore and Lena Krikorian
The following questions were raised by Armenian Assembly of America summer interns Mariam Pashayan and Crystal Densmore at the Middle East Institute’s 5th annual conference on Turkey, held a the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Monday, June 16, 2014:
Mariam Pashayan to Dr. Saban Kardas, Associate Professor of International Relations at TOBB University of Economics and Technology (Ankara, Turkey): “Regarding regional and economic stability, what is the status of Turkey’s land blockade on Armenia? When do you think it will be lifted and please talk about the potential of trade with Armenia for Turkey’s rural southeastern region?”
Dr. Kardas: Armenia “did a few things” in order to “cause the blockade to take place,” therefore “it will not be lifted.”
Mariam Pashayan to Amanda Sloat, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southern Europe and East Mediterranean Affairs, United States Department of State: “If the U.S. is for Armenia and Turkey to reconcile, then why did the Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) tell the President of Turkey Abdullah Gul that Congress has no intention of passing the Armenian Genocide resolution?
Sloat: “What John Boehner mentioned to the Turkish President I can not speak for Congress.”
Crystal Densmore to Ambassador Rob Ford, former U.S. Ambassador to Syria: “The Assad government just retook Latakia province which includes the Armenian town of Kessab, what has been described as the last Armenian town in the Middle East, and Aleppo continues to be ground zero, with Armenians again caught in the cross hairs. It is common knowledge that Turkey assisted the terrorists to enter Latakia and take Kessab, only to designate the group as a terrorist organization months later. What lessons have the Turkish government learned in their support of extremist groups and can we expect them to learn from this?”
Ambassador Ford: The Turkish government has taken refugees from Syria and “there were many Armenian refugees in Kessab, but they were not limited to Armenians.”
Although there are differences of opinion on the topic of Turkey and Armenia relations, it is clear that Turkey and Azerbaijan should lift their unlawful blockade of Armenia, which has caused regional instability and impeded economic integration for the last 20 years. Turkey’s blockade on Armenia, as well as the currently stalled reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Armenia, are due to Turkey’s inability to stay true to its commitment as envisioned in the 2009 Protocols signed by the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey. Clearly, the U.S. supports reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey. However, it was disappointing to hear a former U.S. Ambassador downplay the plight of Christian Armenians in Syria. It is well known that Islamic extremists invaded from Turkey the town of Kessab, which was predominantly Armenian populated. U.S. government officials, current and former, should not shy away from recognizing that fact.
You can watch Mariam and Crystal ask their questions on the Assembly’s YouTube Channel by clicking on the images below.