Despite President Biden’s recognition of Armenian claims to genocide, the relationship between Turkey and the US won’t break — and legal action in the US is near impossible.
The repercussions continue from US President Joe Biden’s official recognition of the so-called Armenian genocide on April 24. The statement’s unacceptable and arrogant approach in addressing the issue reveals that it was written very carefully by jurists.
As of April 20, the news was that “Biden is getting ready to officially recognise it,” which was leaked to the US media and implied to have been sent in a message to Ankara, followed by three separate phone calls between Washington DC and Ankara on Friday. It was wrong and unfortunate that President Biden had not called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since his inauguration, but he called the day before making his statement on April 24, thereby giving greater weight to this issue.
We saw once again how President Biden has distanced himself and harbours a mistrust of Ankara.
So, what happens next?
In the next three years, the White House will continue in the same vein, the Armenian diaspora will be emboldened and continue their propaganda, and they will seek compensation like they tried to do in local courts in 2010. Using the White House’s statement, they will seek to pass sanctions against Turkey in Congress and will harass to Turkish-American diaspora. Since anti-Turkish groups have been given great leverage through this decision, they will try to exacerbate other problem areas.
In contrast, it is vital that Turkey does not act impulsively and approaches the issue within diplomatic conventions. Of course, it is not up to any country to question Turkey’s glorious history.
Turkey must urgently engage the main PR and lobbying companies, review some foreign policy steps, establish a strategic roadmap for the next steps against the Armenian issue, urgently making a supra-party joint statement including the Grand National Assembly. They must act and react carefully without underestimating the incident. Recovering the Turkish diaspora in the US should be among those essential steps taken by Turkey.
What did we see after the announcement? Victory cries from the Armenian diaspora, the media in the US elevating it to a top story. Members of Congress (including some members of the Turkey Caucus and two Muslim congress members) congratulated Biden and the Turkish diaspora in the US organised protests.
Professor Michael Reynolds, who I spoke to from Princeton University, stated that President Biden made this statement to show his discontent with Ankara and that the statement will harm American Armenians in the long run.
Lawyer Bruce Fein, based in Washington, DC asserted that President Joe Biden’s statement is not binding and violates the genocide convention and adds that the statement has political implications and will have adverse consequences. He added that Armenians cannot get compensation because the statement has no validity in court and is against the rule of law.
As you might recall, two separate lawsuits were filed against the Republic of Turkey and Ziraat Bank by two US citizens of Armenian origin on July 29, 2010, and by three US citizens with Armenian descent on December 10, 2010, respectively, at the District Administrative Court of the State of California. Both were rejected at the appeal stage.
During the nine-year judicial process in US courts, American citizens of Armenian origin claimed that their families’ assets and land were confiscated by the Ottoman Empire during the 1915 events and that unfair profits were obtained in favour of the treasury and state banks. In the lawsuits, compensation for damages suffered by the heirs was sought regarding violations of international law and human rights.
The defence of Turkish banks was based on the principle of sovereign immunity. It was stated that no trial could be made in accordance with the “Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act” of 1976, which is included in the US legal system. On the other hand, the plaintiffs claimed that the special provisions of this law on expropriation and commercial activities should be enforced, and in this way, foreign states or banks could be prosecuted.
President Erdogan and President Biden’s meeting at the NATO Summit on June 14 is important after all these developments; however, while there are many problems, I do not think that we will see solid results immediately. We are in a period where the trust deficit between the two countries has deepened, but the ties will never break.
Since President Biden has known President Erdogan for a long time, the issue of the so-called genocide will also come to the fore in the face-to-face meeting. Still, the main agenda items will be the S400-F35 issue, the US support to YPG/PKK terrorist organistaion in Syria, sheltering putschists and members of Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), and regional issues. Serious steps should be taken to create a joint working area on the issues that can be agreed upon and not play into the hands of the adversaries of Turkey.
The meeting held on June 14 will give us a clue on the direction Turkey-US relations will take.