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10 September 2008

2589) Liberal Vs Radical Armenian Perspectives

Young Armenians, both radicals and liberals, discussed Turkey-Armenia relations on the axis of ‘genocide’. Liberals think Tashnaks’ actions and attitudes damage Armenia. Tashnaks, known for their radical stance, set ‘genocide’ as precondition for developments of bilateral relations. .

To what degree Armenians' claims of genocide should be a determining factor in Turkish – Armenian relations remains an open debate in Yerevan.

Isxhan Saxatelyan, a radical member of the Armenian Revolutionary Dashnaksutyun Bureau, and Aren Manukyan, a liberal Armenian, discussed the issue with a Turkish Daily News reporter recently.

Unless the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks are recognized as genocide the Armenian nation would not favor a dialogue with Turkey, according to Saxatelyan.

Manukyan disagreed. “I am an Armenian too. And ‘genocide' definitely gives me as much pain than it gives them. Tashnaks should give up using the issue of ‘genocide' for their own benefit. They have no right to exploit such a sensitive issue.”

Manukyan was critical of the strongly nationalist party the Tashnaks' current stance.

“Tashnaks do not want the borders between Armenia and Turkey to be opened because if they are opened they would let loose the chance to exploit this country – both mentally and materially. They are simply afraid of losing their comfort.”

‘Turkey constantly sets conditions'

According to Saxatelyan, Turkey has turned toward Armenia because it is seeking regional dialogue after witnessing the most recent developments in the Caucasus. “But there is one thing that Turkey forgets as it is searching for a dialogue: Borders between Armenia and Turkey were closed unilaterally by Turkey,” he said.

Turkey constantly sets various conditions related to the issues of “genocide,” Nagorno-Karabagh and the diaspora and asks Armenia to comply with them, said Saxatelyan, adding that Armenia would not back off on any of these issues. The Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabagh, an enclave that belongs to Azerbaijan under international law, remains an obstacle to the normalization of relations.

Saxatelyan said they were already sufficiently aware of the significance of Turkish President Abdullah Gül's visit to Yerevan.

“We hope Armenia will not be asked to fulfill some prerequisites again,” he said.

Regarding the demonstration Tashnaks held during Gül's arrival to Yerevan, Saxatelyan said: “If Gül had not come, no such demonstration would have taken place. As the world's attention focused on us, we wanted to take the ball and remind the world once again about the issue of genocide.”

Tashnaks' attitude not reflective of Armenians'

Manukyan disagreed with Saxatelyan, adding that the Tashnaks' demonstrations did not reflect Armenian citizens' general attitude. Even many of those who voted for the Tashnak party have decided to end their support, he said.

“They organized a demonstration simply for the sake of organizing a demonstration. Their purpose is just to cause tension. Indeed, holding demonstrations have become the life and soul of the Tashnak party,” he said.

For Manukyan, Armenia should never set recognition of “genocide” as a condition for Turkish-Armenian relations to develop. He said historical documents on the “genocide” do exist in libraries in various parts of the world, but disagreed with the idea that a commission of Turkish and Armenian historians should conduct collaborative studies on the issue.

“All archives in different parts of the world can be opened to Turkish researchers. If they want, they can peruse all of them. And we can help them in any way possible. If that happens, they will see the facts. In fact, they are already aware of that,” said Manukyan. He said though genocide is a serious issue they still want to look to the future and live in peace and harmony.

Manukyan also commented on the diaspora. “If Armenia sets correct policies, it can play a substantial role in the region. And from now on, Armenia will have the right to direct the diaspora unlike what has been the case so far,” he said.
Vercihan Ziflioglu, Yerevan - Turkish Daily News, September 10, 2008

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