08 November 2006

1218) Nothing New On The Armenian Front

In Moscow where the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was present for a ministerial meeting of The Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, he stated that Turkey would like to establish cordial relations with Armenia but that certain political problems persisted. Furthermore, he mentioned that Prime Minister Erdogan sent a letter to the Armenian President for these issues to be resolved but that a positive response could not be attained. Gul also indicated that Turkey’s initiative in this regard was supported by the U.S. and many members of the EU as well as by the European Parliament, and mentioned how he hoped that the Armenian government would reconsider this issue. . . .

In a letter Prime Minister Erdogan sent to President Kocharian on the 13th of April this past year, he proposed that a group comprising historians and other specialists from both countries conduct research on the 1915 period utilizing all archives and that the findings be revealed to the world public opinion.

Without directly referring to this proposal, in his response of April the 25th, President Kocharian dwelled on the establishment of normal relations and the opening of borders between the two countries. In the conclusion of this letter, he stated that “an inter-governmental commission to discuss these issues with the aim of resolving all pending problems and attaining a consensus” could convene.

In short, the proposals of both sides differ. While Turkey would like to discuss the genocide allegations before all else, the Armenians give priority to the opening of borders and other bilateral matters. It is a possibility that once the Armenian priorities are resolved, and at best in conjunction with them, the genocide topic may be addressed.

The main reason why the Armenians abstain from discussing the genocide allegations stems from how they accept these claims as being true therefore they believe that if these allegations are open to debate it would be detrimental to their position. However, in doing so they are faced with a dilemma as establishing normal relations with Turkey is not possible without attaining a common understanding on the genocide issue.

The remarks relayed by Abdullah Gul, mentioned above, caused Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanian a great deal of concern. In a statement published by the Foreign Ministry, Oskanian remarked that he was baffled by Turkey’s choice to stay oblivious to President Kocharian’s response to Prime Minister Erdogan and tied this course of act to how Turkey did not want to discuss matters other than those of a historical nature. However, he did not mention why they did not want to discuss historical matters. Instead, he resorted to demagogy with his remarks that as long as Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code which prescribes that debating the Armenian genocide is a crime remains in existence, an invitation for carrying out a dialogue could not be genuine. It should be remembered that Article 301 does not preclude discussion on the genocide issue, that no one in Turkey has been sentenced due to having carried out such a debate and that certain publishers print books written by Armenians and others who claim that Armenians were subjected to genocide.

Oskanian indirectly attempted to indicate that discussing the Armenian genocide allegations was futile by mentioning that certain genocide scholars who support the Armenian official stance sent a letter to Prime Minister Erdogan this May stating that an Armenian genocide took place.

Oskanian expressed that they were prepared to carry out uninhibited discourse with respect to all pending problems and added that they looked upon Turkey’s proposal to establish a commission comprised of historians with suspicion. However, the reason behind this suspicion was not elaborated upon.
In sum, the Armenian Foreign Minister calls for Turkey to open its borders and to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia, yet does not wish to discuss the “genocide”, which has now become a dogmatic issue for them. The Foreign Minister has left the impression that, if so obliged, they may be willing to engage in certain contacts for show but that they do not expect this to bear any fruit.
The aforementioned constitutes the usual Armenian stance. In short, there is nothing new on the Armenian front.

Omer Engin LUTEM
08 November 2006


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