April 24th marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. A century later, the genocide remains controversial as Turkey and Armenia disagree on the events of 1915. Armenia and twenty countries around the world, many with active Armenian diaspora communities, recognize the genocide took place. Turkey’s official position is that forced migrations throughout the region resulted in the deaths of numerous Muslims as well as Christians. Armenia claims the Young Turk government premeditatedly and systematically murdered Armenians. Turkey claims it was a war in which all sides suffered tragic casualties, but there was no genocide. Turkey has its political reasons for not recognizing genocide, and so far Turkey has held out against international pressure. On the centennial anniversary of the tragedy, while Turkish recognition is not imminent, there are signs that relations between Turkey and Armenia could be normalized.

For years, the Armenian diaspora have been lobbying to encourage the United States to recognize the Armenian Genocide, believing that would add pressure for Turkey to do the same. Last year, Turkish President Erdogan, Prime Minister at the time, created a “historic moment” when he told Armenians he felt their pain. This year, however, Armenians are hoping for more.

Turkey’s domestic politics make recognition implausible. National elections are coming up in June, and Turkey is already immersed in dealing with another ethnic identity issue, the Kurdish opening. President Erdogan has recently dialed back his support for the Kurdish peace process, an issue that he had previously championed. He did this in order to appeal to his nationalist base and keep those votes away from the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The even larger obstacle to recognition is that Turkey does not want to open itself up to the possibility of reparations and litigation. If the Turkish government were to recognize the genocide, Armenians could potentially seek reparations in the form of money or land. Domestically, this would be a disastrous outcome during this period of widespread economic stagnation, and the Turkish people’s hostility toward possible Armenian claims to Turkish land.

There are also geopolitical challenges preventing Turkish recognition of the genocide. Armenia and its western neighbor, Azerbaijan, have been in conflict for decades over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Even after the 1988-1994 war between the two countries officially ended, citizens on both sides have been killed, most recently in January of this year. Turks see Azeris as brothers, “one nation, two states.” Taken in combination with Turkey’s own issues with Armenia, Turkey unequivocally takes Azerbaijan’s side in the conflict. At the same time, Turkey hopes to become an energy hub and Azerbaijan provides important natural gas to Turkey. It is because of their close relationship that many see Turkey as an ideal host for several potential new pipelines from eastern Eurasia to Europe. Azeris would not be pleased with any positive gesture toward Armenia.It is important to note that even the Armenian bloc is somewhat divided between the citizens and the diaspora regarding Turkish recognition of the genocide. The economic situation in Armenia is challenging. The Turkish-Armenian border has been closed since 1993, in response to Armenia’s war with Azerbaijan. Because of this, Armenia not only loses out on Turkish trade, but it also has to spend considerably more to export its goods around Turkey, through Georgia or Iran, instead of being able to go directly through Turkey. These economic factors are not lost on Armenian citizens. As much as they would like official recognition, Armenian nationals are more willing to accept normalization with Turkey.

It is important to note that even the Armenian bloc is somewhat divided between the citizens and the diaspora regarding Turkish recognition of the genocide. The economic situation in Armenia is challenging. The Turkish-Armenian border has been closed since 1993, in response to Armenia’s war with Azerbaijan. Because of this, Armenia not only loses out on Turkish trade, but it also has to spend considerably more to export its goods around Turkey, through Georgia or Iran, instead of being able to go directly through Turkey. These economic factors are not lost on Armenian citizens. As much as they would like official recognition, Armenian nationals are more willing to accept normalization with Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Armenian diaspora, particularly in the United States, is quite affluent. Therefore, they can afford, in both senses of the word, to push harder for political goals at the expense of potential economic goals. Turkey is trying to push back against the Armenian-American Diaspora’s anti-Turkey public relations campaign. Armenian diaspora efforts to lobby the US Congress focus heavily on pressuring Turkey. In March of this year, forty-four members of the US Congress introduced the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution in order for the United States to pressure Turkey to officially recognize the genocide. However, its passage is far from certain given that the US wishes to maintain good diplomatic relations with Turkey because of its geographic and politically moderate position in the region.  In any event, normalization is the much more likely and economically beneficial option for both sides.

Turkey intended to open the border a few years ago, and could pursue this option again. In 2009, then foreign minister Davutoglu and Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian signed an agreement that was later quashed by the Armenian Constitutional Court. Azerbaijan reacted very harshly against the proposal. Despite all this, there are signs that Turkey will continue the path towards normalization in order to realize the economic benefits and increase regional stability. In acknowledging the important anniversary, Erdogan or Davutoglu will undoubtedly make a speech or some kind of gesture toward the Armenian community. Perhaps it will be more significant than a previous proposal for a Turkish official to visit an Armenian church. At this point, predicting what both camps will agree to is difficult.Due to historical and current animosities, domestic pressures, and regional politics Turkey has not yet, and probably will not in the near future, recognize that the events of 1915 constitute genocide. The more plausible route toward a more stable region would be normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. There is evidence that normalization is forthcoming. There are concrete steps to be taken that would benefit both countries. If tensions can ease in the weeks preceding April 24

Due to historical and current animosities, domestic pressures, and regional politics Turkey has not yet, and probably will not in the near future, recognize that the events of 1915 constitute genocide. The more plausible route toward a more stable region would be normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. There is evidence that normalization is forthcoming. There are concrete steps to be taken that would benefit both countries. If tensions can ease in the weeks preceding April 24th then there is a chance that a significant motion toward peace and reconciliation will be realized.