Whitehouse Petition: Open the Turkish-Armenian Border for Syrian Refugees

There is a new petition to seek an open Turkish-Armenian border for Syrian refugees. While it’s questionable how much Obama can push Turkish policy, it would be a breakthrough if Turkey opens its borders to allow refugees to cross into Armenia. It’d be a win for Turkey to not have to support as many refugees, a win for the refugees that want to get to Armenia, and a win for Armenia who likes to remind the world that their side of the border is still open. Turkey loses only if you view their foreign relations with Armenia in a zero-sum game: if Armenia does better, Turkey must do worse.

Opening the border for refugees would shave off 270 km (169 mi) from the trip to Yerevan from Gazantep, the nearest Turkish city to Aleppo. And, refugees won’t have to make a detour through Georgia.

The current path through Turkey and Georgia refugees must take to Armenia, and the shorter direct path available if the border is open to them.

The current path and the shorter more direct possible path of refugees to Yerevan.

At publication time, the petition is only at 150 signatures, and is unlikely to get to the 25,000 goal to obtain a Presidential response.  Regardless, if this petition draws enough media attention so that the right people in Turkey or the State department see it, that might be enough. There hasn’t been any serious discussions on opening the border since the 2009 accords fell apart. Turkey owes NATO for its Patriot missiles, and opening the border for refugees shouldn’t cost NATO much political capital and lays the groundwork for either a permanently semi-open border or even a fully open border in the future.

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