Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a declaration on the occasion of April 24, a day generally accepted as a day of mourning for the Armenian victims of deportations and massacres that took place during World War I. For the first time in the history of the country's official declarations, a very humane, understanding and sympathetic tone was adopted.
The prime minister conveyed his sincere condolences to the descendants of those Ottoman Armenians who were killed.
The Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul responded with a heart-warming message, accepting the condolences with compassion.
It was almost the only fully favorable reaction to the revolutionary change instigated by the prime minister's declaration.
All of Turkey's traditional allies, the U.S. and France to start with, were taken aback by this momentous announcement by Prime Minister Erdoğan. In an attempt to heal a centennial wound, he adopted a strategy of empathy. Instead of using the perennial diplomatic style that characterized the Turkish stance on the matter and usually starts with "We regret the losses but..." Erdoğan offered to share in the sadness of this terrible event with the descendants of the victims.
Nobody thought the prime minister was still capable of performing such a tour de force because a deep and organized propaganda
campaign has been waged against him for more than a year, depicting him as a backward autocrat losing more and more popular support.
The recent elections have shown that his popular support is still very much alive.
That was the first nasty surprise for his detractors.
This second blow totally devastated the image portrayed by his critics in the international media.
Reconciliation with the Armenian diaspora is another story altogether. A very long road toward accepting the facts has to be taken on both sides. This will not be an easy or rewarding endeavor but it has to be done. It has begun from the correct spot, the correct viewpoint: empathy, understanding and acceptance instead of denial and justification of what remains 100 years later.
The first steps should be taken in order to wipe away the fears and anxiety of the Armenian minority in Turkey that, despite having constitutional rights since 1923, legitimately feels rejected and ostracized, especially after the murder of journalist Hrant Dink. The prime minister's olive branch has been largely welcomed among Turkish Armenians, whose minority rights have never been better than under AK Party rule.
The second step should be the normalization of relations with the Republic of Armenia, whose economy is in shambles and prospects for development nil. That would also require a lot of support on the part of Turkey's allies, including the U.S., to normalize the situation in the Caucasus.
Once these steps are taken, a reconciliation deal with the Armenian diaspora might surface or at least an atmosphere of trust can be initially established. Long endeavors always start with a first step, and the prime minister has already taken the first step. The rest is perseverance and its responsibility falls on everyone's shoulders.