Saturday, October 10, 2009

Achieving Peace

One day after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Barack Obama is already fulfilling his promise. He actually got Turkey and Armenia to reach an accord that establishes diplomatic relations between the two countries and opens their shared border. Thanks to a little shrewd diplomacy from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it also calls for dialogue on the historical dimension of the mass killings of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I, when the Ottoman Empire was in its final death throes and the Armenian homeland was divided between Russia and the Turks. The Turks, allied with Germany and Austria, terrorized and eventually killed a good deal of their Armenian population, distrusting them and fearing they would collaborate with Russia, allied with the British and the French.
Armenian grievances were overlooked in the 1920s the wake of Kamal Ataturk's established of the modern Turkish state after the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Russian part of Armenia was incorporated into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They re-emerged after the Soviet Union itself collapsed in 1991 and Armenia regained its independence. The tension has led to Turkish condemnation of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a disputed Azerbaijani region populated by Armenians (Nagorno-Karabakh, whose status remains undetermined despite the ethnic Armenian victory in 1994) and a subsequent sealing of the border. Armenia, by contrast, has insisted that Turkey admit to the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The fact that both sides are talking and have agreed to work for a permanent, peaceful solution means that Obama's efforts and building global trust and understanding are paying off.
Armenia and Turkey have a long way to go, but this breakthrough is clearly a step in the right direction.

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