How Armenia responds to Turkish FM's ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves gesture
Cavusoglu showed the ‘gray wolves‘ gesture
During his visit to Uruguay, the Turkish Foreign Minister showed the local Armenians gathered in front of the Turkish embassy in Montevideo the sign of the Gray Wolves organization. With a gesture of Turkish far-right nationalists, the head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry reacted to the action of protesters against his arrival in Uruguay on the eve of the 107th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
The Armenian Genocide is a massacre that occurred in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. Prior to that, about two and a half million Armenians lived in the territory of the Ottoman Empire. As a result of the killings and mass deportation, more than half of them died. Armenia, several Western countries and international organizations officially recognize these events as genocide. Turkey categorically rejects such a formulation.
In 1991, after the collapse of the USSR, Turkey de facto recognized Armenia, but still refuses to establish diplomatic relations with it. Since 1993, Turkey has unilaterally closed its air and land borders with Armenia. Through the efforts of the world community, the air border was reopened in 1995, while the land border is still closed.
Amid the process of normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey, Cavusoglu’s gesture raised questions in the Armenian society, including to its authorities, who entered into negotiations with Ankara. So far, official Yerevan, represented by the Foreign Ministry, has not reacted to the incident in any way and there is no comment on the ministry’s website yet. Experts do not rule out that this could have been Turkey’s attempt to provoke the Armenian authorities to abandon the process of establishing bileteral relations.
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The Turkish Foreign Minister was in Uruguay on a working visit. Ankara and Montevideo are discussing the possibility of signing a free trade agreement. The Turkish Foreign Minister traveled to Uruguay to hold official meetings, as well as participate in the opening ceremony of the Turkish embassy.
Representatives of the Armenian community of Uruguay gathered near the building of the newly opened embassy to hold a protest against Cavusoglu’s visit and an event in memory of the victims of the genocide.
Uruguay is the first country in the world to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. On April 24, the day of remembrance of the victims of the genocide, an event dedicated to the anniversary of the tragedy was held in the Armenian Square in Montevideo, at which the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay also spoke. During the day, processions and demonstrations were held at the initiative of the local Armenian community.
In response to the protest, Cavusoglu, with a smile on his face, showed a gesture from the car window symbolizing the Turkish nationalist organization Gray Wolves. And the embassy staff, who were next to the car, applauded him.
Condemnation by the Uruguayan authorities
The first to condemn the gesture of the head of Turkish diplomacy was President Luis Lacal Pou, he called the incident “regrettable.” Cavusoglu was also criticized by members of the Uruguayan government and politicians.
Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo, speaking at an event dedicated to the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, stated:
“Uruguay is a country that honors memory, a country that strives for peace and a future. Our country prefers reconciliation in case of confrontation. We preach mutual understanding, tolerance and hope that those who visit this land of peace and tolerance will do the same. I reject and condemn any offensive behavior or gesture that involves physical or mental violence”.
Turkish Ambassador Hussein Muftuoglu has been called in by the Foreign Ministry of Uruguay.
Reaction of Armenian deputies from opposition and ruling party
Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Relations, member of the ruling Civil Contract faction Eduard Aghajanyan condemned the behavior of the Turkish minister:
“This is a reprehensible act. It in no way contributes to the formation of an atmosphere of mutual understanding and dialogue between the two peoples”.
At the same time, the deputy welcomed the response of the Uruguayan side, which followed the incident, as well as the fact that the Turkish ambassador was invited to the Uruguayan Foreign Ministry for clarification.
Gegham Nazaryan, a member of the Hayastan opposition parliamentary faction (Armenia), described Cavusoglu’s gesture as “sobering”:
“You know, there are millions of hidden Armenians in Turkey, and yesterday I was convinced that one of them is Cavusoglu himself [ironically], who, with a desperate gesture, wanted to sober up the Armenian people, saying that Turkey’s goals are completely different, not those that the head of your country is talking about. It was a sobering call to the Armenian people”.
“Hitler is saluting back from his grave”
Cavusoglu’s behavior reminded former Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan of the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler.
“@MevlutCavusoglu “grey wolves” salute is disgusting, disgraceful and racist”, the Armenian diplomat wrote on Twitter.
As for the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations, the ex-minister believes that the establishment of relations between neighboring nations is a necessary process, but it presupposes conscientiousness and compassion:
“The denial [of the fact of the genocide] by Turkey does not meet the condition of good faith. Stop denying”.
Political observer Hakob Badalyan considers Cavusoglu’s “gesture” an expression of cynicism. However, he does not rule out that this manifestation of cynicism has “irritating political overtones”, for example, in connection with the Armenian-Turkish process of normalizing relations.
Badalyan believes that Turkey is annoyed, in particular, by the fact that the Armenian-Turkish dialogue is not direct, but indirect:
“It’s annoying, because they need the Armenian-Turkish process, at least in the context of international political realities, and they do not consider it expedient to abandon it. And it is possible that there will be such “cynical provocations” to push Armenia to abandon the process, and thus the responsibility for disrupting the process will fall on Armenia”.
Ankara has been actively talking about normalizing relations with Yerevan after the end of the second Karabakh war. At the end of last year, Armenia and Turkey appointed special representatives who have already held two meetings – in Moscow and Vienna.
The Turkish side, including in the person of Cavusoglu, has repeatedly stated that it prefers direct negotiations and meetings – in Yerevan and Ankara – and is ready to take the first step by arriving in the capital of Armenia.
Hakob Badalyan considers a direct conversation important, but he is sure that Armenia should try to use the influence of “third parties”:
“All the same, they [the Turkish side] have enough potential for influence. In this case, it is more expedient to work with this “influence”. In addition, the “third party” factor must be used at least to some extent to compensate for the huge difference in ‘weight categories’ that exists between Armenia and Turkey”.