Without Public Support, Little Real Progress Will Be Made

Despite their governments’ best intentions, nearly a century of animosity between Turkey and Armenia cannot be instantly brushed aside by two signatures on a treaty.

When the two countries’ leaders met last Saturday, they both chose to ignore the giant elephant in the room: Turkey still vehemently refuses to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to 1923. When the U.S. Senate proposed to recognize the genocide in 1989, Turkey responded by blocking American ships in the Mediterranean and suspending U.S. military training facilities in Turkish territory.

Tensions between the two countries have continued for years in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a conflict area between Armenia and its Turkish ally Azerbaijan, which has kept Turkey and Armenia at each others’ throats. Even though an official ceasefire has been in place for years, fighting in the region unsurprisingly continues to this day.

In the end, no official document or room of cordial officals can hope to eliminate longstanding disagreements at ground level.

Ironically, both parties delayed the treaty’s signing in an attempt to censor the other’s statements. The Oct. 10 ceremony was delayed three hours as both leaders pouted in their respective corners of rhetoric — until Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cajoled the two to make nice and sign the document. Meaning, in case we didn’t know, it was nothing more than a public relations stunt at the end of the day.

Former Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vardan Oskanyan said it himself: “Signing these documents will not solve our problems. On the contrary, they will bring on entirely new setbacks and problems that can only be tackled by a unified, free, hopeful society.”

Without the backing of their respective populations, this treaty will only increase internal and external tension. Armenians fear the conditions of the protocols will be entirely on Turkey’s terms. Reuters reports that, immediately following the ceremony, Turkey called on Armenia to withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh — a move that Armenian leaders are still contemplating.

Tensions between Armenia and Turkey have clearly not dissipated with the wave of a magic pen — both nations have a deep-seated history of conflict, and their friction will not disappear with empty words of acceptance. It’s about time world leaders dropped their flashy press-conference acts and start talking the issue out from the bottom up.

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