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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Unrequited Past

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The Armenian genocide and its final act turn 90 this week. The lack of recognition, redemption, and closure of this defining watershed for Armenians and Turks alike has been driven by power politics and the hedging of history, aggressive revisionism and a strategic incapacity of the perpetrators, the victims and the generations that followed them to call it like it is and move beyond.

The lessons, risks and dangers flowing from the genocide and its contemporary continuation are all the more poignant because the Armenian case was not only the physical murder of most of the people making up the nation, but also the violent interruption of their way of life and the forcible expropriation of the homeland they had lived in for thousands of years. This pivotal distinction constitutes a primary source -- different from that of the Holocaust -- for the denialist demeanor of the Ottoman Empire's successor regime, the quest for justice and personal integrity of the battered and scattered Armenian survivors, and the vicissitudes of international diplomacy.

The legal, ethical, educational, material and territorial components of this landmark catastrophe have proved too complex a challenge for any party or power to meet.

It is the truly unique underpinning of the Armenian experience that accounts in large measure for why a historical, world-documented nation-killing remains in limbo to this day and continues to serve as an instrument for polemics, politics and a variety of "national interests."

Absence of a meeting of modern Turkish and Armenian hearts and minds means a history that is off limits but ever present, a frontier that is undelimited but closed, and a relationship -- or lack thereof -- that is hostage to the heritage of homeland genocide. It is this very relationship, between Turkey and Armenia and their constituencies, that is the key to creating a brave new region where the interests of all players converge to form a single page of security and development.

And it is this relationship, if honestly and efficiently forged, that would become the foundation for the strengthening of respective sovereignties, for cooperation in matters of education, culture and historical preservation, for an enduring peace in Nagorny Karabakh, Nakhichevan and the broader neighborhood, for open roads, skies and seas, and for the guaranteed choice of a rightful return of all refugees and their progeny to their places of origin. As it stands, however, an unrequited past still doubles as an unsettled present, leaving unchecked and unpredictable the many future impediments to peace, stability and reconciliation.

How long can this commingling of tenses go on? How can all concerned frame a process for a resolution of substance?

Can the heirs to the Turkish perpetration translate self-interest into seeking atonement, and can the descendants of the great Armenian dispossession agree to move on? Will we, or our children, ever see the light, let alone reflect back from the heights, of a post-genocide world?

Turkey's and Armenia's initially separate paths to European integration might provide them one, perhaps penultimate opportunity, against their own odds, to assume history, draw the line, and embrace a promising epoch as sound, if unlikely, partners in regional and global affairs. New benchmarks and new leaders and a new discourse are in order.

Raffi Hovannisian, formerly Armenia's foreign minister, is founding director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies in Yerevan. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.