It's hard to overstate the significance and festive nature of the moment when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Armenian Foreign Minister Edouard Nalbandian sat at a table in Zurich and signed a historic peace agreement between the two countries.
While Turkey and Armenia have not actually been at war, a fateful hundred-year conflict steeped in hatred has endured between them. It began with the mass murder of Armenians by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, and continued with a bitter and inexorable dispute between the descendents of those tragic events. The Armenians demanded that Turkey admit its crime, while Turkey refused to allow intellectuals even to express sympathy for the Armenians.
Turkey claimed that the Armenians were killed and exiled during battle and that even if many were murdered, the number of dead had not exceeded 300,000. The Armenians, in all their publications, studies and art works, discuss mass murder, genocide and even a holocaust of 1.5 million victims.
The dispute between the two countries led to a harsh rift between them and hurt them both. Turkey's refusal to recognize the injustice toward the Armenians gnawed away at its chances of joining the European Union and damaged its relations with the United States, while poverty-stricken Armenia remained in isolation. Now, without having agreed on the historical details, they have taken a giant step toward reconciliation.
Reconciliation itself is more important than its components, which will no doubt give rise to further disputes. It attests to the fact that even long-enduring conflicts can be resolved, and that real leaders are prepared to change perceptions for the future's sake. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the reconciliation with Armenia, just as he is trying to improve relations with Greece and move ahead toward a solution over Cyprus, with impressive wisdom.
Even if the road to a real solution is still long, the parties have extracted the poisonous stinger from their relations - of exclusivity of the historical narrative and its use as an eternal incentive. The peace agreement between Turkey and Armenia thus provides a fascinating lesson for Israel and the Palestinians, entrenched in their unilateral and one-dimensional narratives in the name of absolute justice and until the last drop of blood. The Turks, whose ancestors the Ottomans ruled for hundreds of years in our region, have opened a window of hope for us.
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