March 27, 2013 - 17:45 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Turkey and Armenia missed an historic opportunity to improve ties when Turkey refused to ratify the Protocols on the Establishment of Diplomatic and Bilateral Relations signed on October 10, 2009. Rather than rapprochement, Armenians are now fully mobilized to organize worldwide activities commemorating the one hundred year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 2015, the Director of a Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights said in his article published in The Huffington Post.
“More than one million Armenians perished during the final years of the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. Turkey disputes these facts, referring to the events as “shared suffering”,” David L. Phillips reminds in his article.
“The governments of Turkey and Armenia may be at loggerheads, but Turks and Armenians are still engaging in economic diplomacy, working on cross-border activities beneath the radar. Commercial contact involves mostly "suitcase trade" involving consumer goods transported from Turkey through Georgia to Armenia.
But bigger business is possible. Armenia could sell surplus electricity to Turkey which needs energy to power its economic boom. Armenia could also tap into Turkey's state-of-the-art fiber optic cable to meet its growing demand for Internet. Railway service between Kars in Turkey and Gyumri in Armenia could resume when Turkey opens its border gate. In anticipation, Armenia could begin conforming the country's Soviet-era railway gauge to Turkish and European standards.
Normalized travel and trade would also stimulate the tourist industry. Many Armenians are coming from Russia to cultural sites in Eastern Turkey. Allowing Armenian tourist buses to cross the Turkish-Armenian border would be a windfall for local business. Charter flights between the eastern Turkish city of Van and Yerevan would enhance commercial contact and a Turkish Airlines office in Yerevan would boost travel. The Ani Bridge across the Akhurian River, which symbolized the connection between Armenian civilization and the Anatolian plain, should be restored,” the article said.
“There is currently no contact between Turkish and Armenian officials. Instead of trying to reinvent history, Turkey's Prime Minister Erdoğan can make history through an executive order to open the border and normalize travel and trade as a step toward diplomatic relations. Bolder yet, he could submit the protocols on normalization and diplomatic relations to the Turkish parliament with his personal endorsement for ratification.
Turkey's moral authority is undermined by the government's denial of the Armenian Genocide. On Remembrance Day, April 24, Erdoğan should apologize for what happened to Armenians during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. Reconciling with Armenia would help consolidate Turkey's role as a regional power, as well as a force for good in the world,” Mr Phillips concluded.
David L. Phillips was the chair of the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) which existed from 2001 to 2004.