TURKEY – ARMENIA DISPUTE MUST BE SETTLED IN COURT

TURKEY – ARMENIA DISPUTE MUST BE SETTLED IN COURT

Dimpool Analysis Team

BURHAN GURDOGAN

02 October 2011

The Turkish-Armenian dispute holds a great deal of importance for both countries. The Armenian side accuses Turkey (successor of the Ottoman Empire) of committing genocide in 1915, while the Turks answer these claims by stating that the relocation of the Armenians was a necessity in a time of war.

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The Issue

On March 4, 2010, the U.S. Congress’ Foreign Affairs Committee passed a draft resolution recognizing the events of 1915 as genocide; the Swedish parliament also approved a resolution describing the events as genocide. Both drafts have been decided by only one vote.

For many years, the Armenian Diaspora has exerted an incredible amount of energy trying to persuade other countries to recognize the events as genocide as part of the first leg of their agenda which is “recognition” — other parts of the plan include compensation and land.

Unlike the Armenian side, the Turkish side has displayed a very weak performance on the political side of the dispute and if it continues as it has the entire world will soon recognize the dispute as genocide.

The purpose of this article is not to debate if those events were genocide or not, many people from both sides have done that for years and it is obvious that they have not helped in solving the dispute.

According to the Armenian Diaspora, the only solution or way out of this problem is political: they feel success if any country recognizes their claims. On the Turkish side, the problem should be solved by historians which is why a joint historical commission has been proposed to investigate the issue.

Both U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave promises to the Armenian committee before they got elected. Last year, Turkey narrowly escaped the possibility of U.S. recognition by signing an agreement with Armenia and they can avoid it this year too because of the joint protocols, but the Turkish side realizes that if it does not take concrete steps they will face those claims every year.

The last attempt to solve the dispute were the protocols which were signed on September 10, 2009, but after the binding verdict of the Armenian Constitutional court, the Turkish side will most likely decline those protocols. In fact, according to some experts, the protocols are dead and have become impossible to accept.

If we analyze the consequences of a possible rejection of the protocols, the Armenian side will first suffer economically because of the border issue and they could lose a chance to bring new opportunities to the country. At first glance, the Turkish side could lose nothing in the deal, but in fact they will lose the only leverage they have against the U.S. President and it will eventually cause U.S. recognition. In the end, the Turkish side could end up more damaged than prior to the protocols.

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Legal solution

Both sides overlook that the only definite solution to the Turkish-Armenian dispute is through legal means. This is because the main subject of this dispute is based on a criminal allegation. Unless this problem is taken to legal authorities, both sides cannot have a definite solution.

The first legal way is through the International Court of Arbitration (ICC). Both sides can apply to this court in order to solve their dispute. But a problem might occur if they apply to arbitration, first because the ICC is not a criminal court, and second its verdicts can be arguable because the applicants are choosing the judges.

International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice

The only reliable legal way is through the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Following its verdict on the Bosnia-Serbia case, the court paved the way of trying countries for genocide claims. If both sides apply to this court, they will have an indisputable, definite verdict. The only problem that might occur is that the ICJ tries cases with respect to the UN Genocide Convention and according to this convention it cannot be applied to events before the convention’s date of effect, 1951.

Therefore, in order to apply to the ICJ, first, the UN Genocide Convention should be amended and this is possible according to article 16; if one of the parties of this convention applies to the UN and asks for an amendment the convention can become applicable for the 1915 events. After that, there will be a fair and professional trial and the losing side will bear the consequences.

A chain of events that ended up with hundreds of thousands of people’s deaths at least deserves a fair trial.

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BURHAN GURDOGAN
The Turkish-Armenian dispute holds a great deal of importance for both countries. The Armenian side accuses Turkey (successor of the Ottoman Empire) of committing genocide in 1915, while the Turks answer these claims by stating that the relocation of the Armenians was a necessity in a time of war." />