By Emil Danielyan
Most Armenians are against having an open border with Turkey as long as the latter refuses to recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide, according to a new U.S.-funded opinion poll.
The nationwide survey, the second of its kind, was commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development and conducted by the U.S. International Republican Institute, the Gallup Organization and the Armenian Sociological Association in early August.
It found that 57 percent of some 1,200 people randomly interviewed across Armenia believe their government must not agree to the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border without Turkish recognition of the genocide. Only 39 percent backed Yerevan’s insistence on an unconditional resumption of cross-border travel and commerce between the two estranged nations.
While supporting efforts at international recognition of the mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide, the administration of President Robert Kocharian has said all along that it is against any preconditions for normalizing the strained bilateral ties.
Turkey closed its land border with Armenia in 1993, at the height of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, out of solidarity with Azerbaijan, its closest regional ally. Successive governments in Ankara have made its reopening conditional on a resolution of the Karabakh conflict. They have also demanded an end to the increasingly successful genocide recognition campaign.
The findings of the poll are thus clearly at odds with the Armenian government’s policy towards Turkey and more in tune with the position of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), an influential nationalist party represented in Kocharian’s cabinet. Dashnaktsutyun regards genocide recognition as a precondition for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. Some of its leaders have also said that an open border with Turkey would hit hard the Armenian economy.
Armenian public opinion seems similarly apprehensive about Turkey, with 80 percent of those polled viewing their Western neighbor as a threat to Armenia’s national security. Conversely, 85 percent referred to Russia as a strategic partner of Armenia. It was followed by France (53 percent) and the European Union (36 percent) as a whole. Only 16 percent mentioned the United States.
(Photolur photo: Young Dashnaktsutyun activists burn a Turkish flag during a demonstration in Yerevan.)