Political Triangle: Yerevan believes in Hollande’s strategic maturity to keep France-Armenia-Turkey balance

Political Triangle: Yerevan believes in Hollande’s strategic maturity to keep France-Armenia-Turkey balance

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Political analysts in Armenia are not too concerned about the newly elected French president François Hollande’s intentions to improve the relations between France and Turkey, hoping that the new president will lead a balanced policy in the Armenia-Turkey issue.

Prior to the May 6 elections, socialist leader Hollande had promised to recover the good relations between France and Turkey that had deteriorated because of the bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide (the Senate passed the draft law which was later declared anti-constitutional; Turkey temporarily called back its ambassador from France, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey was terminating cooperation with France in a number of spheres.)

At the same time Hollande assured the large Armenian community of France that he would support the bill and has assumed the obligation to submit the respective governmental bill in the beginning of his tenure in order to make its ratification possible. Moreover, as Giro Manoyan, leading the ARF Dashnaktsutyun’s Bureau for Political Affairs and the Armenian Cause, says yet a decade ago it was through the socialists that the Armenian Cause office in France was able to start the process of having France adopt a bill criminalizing the Armenian genocide denial. It is this circumstance that inspires optimism to Manoyan and belief that Hollande will have the bill ratified during his tenure. Manoyan told ArmeniaNow that the difference between Hollande and Sarkozy is about the way they build relations with Turkey rather than about “the Armenian bill”: as opposed to Sarkozy, Hollande doesn’t seem to mind Turkey’s potential EU membership.

Erdogan in a phone conversation with president-elect Hollande said he hoped “a new era” would start in the bilateral relations between their countries void of any “artificial issues” affecting them.

Expert in Turkish studies Artak Shakaryan, however, believes that Hollande will not bring about tangible changes in the French foreign affairs agenda.

“Although France is a country with strong presidential apparatus, a change of one person will not introduce any essential change in the foreign policy. Turkey’s EU membership is strategically not in France’s interests. Regardless of the fact that Hollande will definitely lead a more reasonable policy with Turkey, he is someone who has always supported Armenian initiatives, has visited the Armenian Genocide memorial, is in close relations with the ARF Armenian Cause office in France, has promised not to suspend the genocide denial criminalization bill. Rumor has it he has even agreed to allocate state means for arranging large-scale events in 2015, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Hollande is known for his more moderate approach to Turkey’s potential EU membership, however he said he didn’t believe it would happen during his term in the office,” Shakaryan told ArmeniaNow, adding that “since the next presidential elections in France are not expected until five years from now, he will not adopt a pro-Armenian policy since he won’t need their votes for the time being. We’ll see to what extend the Armenian issue matches France’s strategic interests.”

Expert in Turkish studies Ruben Safrastyan believes that Hollande will not break his vow and will act upon the promise to back the “Armenian bill”, but “that won’t happen right away.”

“There is information that they are planning to reformulate the bill so that it doesn’t contradict the Constitution. I think the amended text will have some kind of formulations that would cushion Turkey’s reaction,” says Safrastyan.