Assembly Holds Youth Roundtable Discussion on Protocols

WASHINGTON — Last month, the Armenian Assembly of America, in collaboration with the Armenian American Action Committee of Washington, DC, (ARAMAC-DC) organized “Protocols & Progress: A Youth Roundtable Discussion on Armenia-Turkey Relations.” The discussion took place in the main hall of the future home of the Armenian Genocide Museum of America. More than 25 members of the community were in attendance, mostly from local student and youth groups.

Six discussants from universities and community groups provided a youth perspective on the Armenia-Turkey protocols: Aram Baghdjian, George Washington University Armenian Student Network; Levon Bagramian, founder and coordinator of Advocates for Armenia; Nick Bazarian, ARAMAC State Chair for Northern Virginia and intern alumnus; Vahan Callan, ANCA capital gateway alumnus; Haik Gugarats, former public relations officer at US Embassy in Yerevan and Armenian Embassy in DC; and Saro Kalayjian, Diocesan Delegate for St. Mary’s Armenian Church.

The signing of the protocols on October 10, in Zurich, Switzerland followed Armenian President Serge Sargisian’s meeting with diaspora communities, in which major Armenian-American organizations participated.

Throughout the discussion, many issues were raised, including broader Armenia-Turkey relations and the opening of the border, the Armenian community’s response and the importance of dialogue, diplomacy and the diaspora moving forward.

Reflecting on the Armenian reaction and the economic implications of lifting the Turkish blockade, Bagramian stated, “the outrage that has been displayed by the diaspora in response to the Armenian Government’s recent attempts at rapprochement with Turkey is understandable, but ultimately misguided. Armenia needs to have a more reliable trading partner than she currently has; Armenia needs less reliance on “all things Russian,” and Armenia needs to put a wedge between Turkey and Azerbaijan — normal relations with Turkey will get us closer to these goals than the status quo. One sure hopes that the diaspora will continue its renewed interest and sense of entitlement towards Armenia, and speak out when she often veers off of her path towards democracy and rule of law.”

Commenting on the topic of dialogue, diplomacy and the diaspora, Gugarats stated, “even if we are not comfortable with one or another point in the protocols, it is important to keep in mind how rare is this window of opportunity that made the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement possible. All the major players in the region, Russia, the European Union and the United States are involved in and support this process. Armenia was right to take advantage of this, and must engage these countries fully to make sure this process is complete in the next six months or so.”

While there was debate over the differing interpretations of the protocol language, the general consensus from the discussion revealed a positive sentiment from Armenian-American youth on the process of normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey without preconditions and within a reasonable time frame.