- Tunçboyacıyan Joins Voices With Kardeş Türküler
- Nigar Goksel: “Armenian Issue Is At Core Of Turkish Identity”
- Armies Will No Longer Participate In Politics, Says Kinzer
- Obama And The Denial Of Genocide, David Boyajian, New Internationalist
- Köhne Significance Of EP Elections For Turkey, EU's Future, What It Is Like To Report From Turkey
- Azerbaijan Is A Special Country I Know I Can Trust In – Interview With Israeli President Shimon Peres
- More To Come At The Weekend . .
Tunçboyacıyan Joins Voices With Kardeş Türküler
Kardeş Türküler, a well-known folk music ensemble praised for its wide repertoire of ethnic music compiled from throughout Anatolia, is readying itself for a major concert next week in İstanbul.
The ensemble will be joined by internationally acclaimed Turkish-Armenian avant-garde folk musician Arto Tunçboyacıyan and famous Palestinian-British musician-radio broadcaster-activist Reem Kelani in the Turkcell Kuruçeşme Arena next Tuesday.
Singer Fehmiye Çelik and dancer Banu Açıkdeniz of Kardeş Türküler, joined by Tunçboyacıyan, shared their goals and intentions about the concert in a news conference this week. “We want to send the message that we want to live altogether with all our differences and that we want freedom and peace,” said Çelik, pointing out that the concert comes at a time of high expectations of a solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey. Noting the importance of bringing Tunçboyacıyan and Kelani together on the same stage, Çelik said: "We all know that the Middle East needs peace. There's no difference between Arab hostility and anti-Semitism; both are dreadful. We wanted to create an occasion to perform Arabic and Hebrew songs together on the same stage.”
The first part of the concert will be called "İstanbul with Kardeş Türküler" in which the various aspects of city will be depicted through songs, such as the many “identities, cultures and beliefs” it houses, explained Çelik. The second part will feature a selection of songs from the wide-ranging repertoire of Kardeş Türküler.
The June 30 concert will come just days after the release of two new albums by the ensemble on Friday: one of them, “Kajar” (City), is a collection of songs depicting the transformations in the lives of Kurds and the second is “Gayrı İstanbul,” a compilation of Balkan songs. The ensemble, which has a history of over 15 years, is set to start work on its upcoming album during the summer.
Living as a human being
"They make me say that I'm an Armenian because they leave me no other choice; they don't see me as [solely] a human being," complains Tunçboyacıyan about the imposing of ethnicities in Turkey. Tunçboyacıyan, who launched his musical career in the US, has many friends who are musicians in Turkey, but next week's concert with Kardeş Türküler was the first offer of collaboration he had received from Turkey, and the percussionist-singer says he is very glad to work with the ensemble. "Nobody should look for a grudge and hate inside me. It's nonsense. I wasn't brought up like that; I won't die like that either," says Tunçboyacıyan about his feelings toward Turkish society as an Anatolian Armenian. "If I leave Turkey, I'll have to leave myself, too," says the 52-year-old Tunçboyacıyan during an interview with Today's Zaman following Wednesday's news conference.
One of your albums was banned in Turkey. Why?
That was the album "Türkçe Sözlü Hafif Anadolu Müziği" (Soft Anatolian Music) I released in 2000. The lyrics were promising lyrics. There are so many issues [in Turkey], you know. ... Nobody cares about your heart, about your humanity, but they evaluate each other according to what they wear, their headscarves or their religions or races. It's always us who create these. We attribute some features to God according to ourselves. Religions have become business sectors; they have been estranged from their essential meanings. That's why, for me, my belief has no difference to yours. Love, honesty, respect -- these words all have the same meanings in English, Turkish or in Arabic. My songs were about all these. There is paranoia here: “Will people unite?” That's why there was a great pressure. Later on, they released my album. One song was about humanity, another was about senectitude and one song was about the black clouds -- representing ideas -- over Anatolia. I can't comprehend the reason why people prefer to live suffering. As human beings, we create something, we attribute some values to that and then we quarrel over it with each other.
How do you feel when people talk about your identity and the issues between Turkey and Armenia?
If people are talking about these issues all the time, this shows how underdeveloped they are. But someone has to speak out against these so that the quarrel ends. I'm [seen as an] infidel here, a Turkish fink in Armenia and a terrorist in the United States. I can't live merely as a human being. We are all born as human beings, then we are all tagged, but those children are not born with tags. Why are children born in Turkey, Armenia, Palestine and Israel enemies of each other? Because we create the hostilities since we have interests in it. Now that I'm here, journalists ask me about Armenia, Turkey, about sensational issues. But I'm not living as an Armenian or a Turk; I'm living as a human being. The other [aspects] are flavors. It's the same with girls who wear a headscarf. They are always excluded because of their clothes. … Today, for example, people who damage Islam the most are Muslims themselves because they are not sincere with each other, they don't have purity in themselves and they exploit Islam. And other people use these people who damage Islam.
Maybe people need time to get over these kinds of ideas?
One day! The mentality has to change. What's essential here [is that] you have to accept the thing that you don't like with respect. Because quarrelling about land issues, like which place is ours, which is yours, I'm not that kind of a person. We are not the owners of these lands; these lands own us. … What I'm fighting against is the mentality. In this Armenia-Turkey issue, when the mentality changes, all these debates about borders, etc., will become irrational. That's a shame, isn't it? It is as if we don't have anything else to talk about; everything has been solved, but the only problem is the headscarf. It's an opprobrium for me, evaluating people according to their clothes. I even wrote a song about that.
So, this is why you are in this project with Kardeş Türküler...
Yes, the message that they [Kardeş Türküler] want to give to humanity, their love, attracted me a lot because there's no difference among us. But if you are excluded, how will you be able to have the feeling of belonging?
What are your future plans for this project?
This is not a project for me; it's a beginning. This project in fact interests all of us [citizens of Turkey] because it's something that all of us dream of. They [Kardeş Türküler] started it. But I don't believe in coincidences; everything has a meaning. This is a beginning, and I don't want it to end.
26 June 2009, AHSEN UTKU
Nigar Goksel: “Armenian Issue Is At Core Of Turkish Identity” Istanbul Researcher Discusses Armenia And Turkey, by Emil Sanamyan June 25, 2009
Washington - Diba Nigar Goksel is an Istanbul-based senior analyst for the European Stability Initiative (ESI), a Berlin think tank. For the past several years, Ms. Goksel's work has focused on Armenia and has included a report, "Noah's Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide," released last April. Last week she was in the United States to begin a research project on the Armenian diaspora's role in Armenia. She was interviewed by the Armenian Reporter's Washington editor Emil Sanamyan on June 17.
Welcomed in Armenia as "normal person"
Armenian Reporter: When you first began working in Armenia, were you apprehensive about it or, perhaps, excited about the opportunity, or both?
Nigar Goksel: I was excited. I was a little bit concerned that as a Turk I wouldn't be spoken to about issues in Armenia openly and that would influence the quality of research I would do.
Like in Georgia and Azerbaijan, our research in Armenia is about trying to understand how Armenia is changing, where Armenia is headed. How the state-building process and economic development, and a debate about the future of Armenia is progressing. A lot of our research in Armenia entailed travel outside of Yerevan, talking to ordinary people, opinion leaders, and business people.
So I was concerned that because I was a Turk, answers would be adjusted accordingly and there would be a perception that I was looking for problems to display [to the outside world] or something like that.
It ended up not being the case and I was positively surprised.
I was received and welcomed wholeheartedly, especially in the villages of Armenia. In Yerevan, it was more complex: some would be more positive, others more negative. And it was in small towns where I received the most challenging questions and borderline accusations.
So it ended up being research / bilateral dialogue effort, because I was also asked a lot of questions by Armenians about Turkey. One amazing thing is how high the level of interest is in Armenia about what is happening in Turkey and how few Turks Armenians actually meet.
AR: The warm reception you describe particularly in the rural areas, did you feel like you were given special treatment because, perhaps, you were breaking existing stereotypes? Or was it more just out of a sense of general neglect and an appreciation of an outsider's attention?
NG: At least in some places, my Turkishness was not important or not initially an important issue. People would talk about their local problems. Say, how budget of this village is sufficient or not for reconstruction of a particular sewage system or whatnot.
And it could be an hour into a conversation when someone would ask where I was from. And upon hearing I was from Turkey, they would say, "Oh, why didn't you tell us?" and start bringing fruits and vodka to the table and start talking about the past.
In part, I think it was a stereotype issue. I was not a classical Turk that people envisioned – a stern man with a mustache. And it was an opportunity for [Armenians] to talk to one of those people that they had heard so much about but never had an opportunity to confront.
Sometimes, when my Turkishness would be first revealed, the conversation would turn more confrontational. [I would be often asked] if from my perspective there was genocide. And after hearing me say yes [there was], and that Turkey is changing profoundly in this sense but that there are still problems- as soon as it seemed that I talked as a normal person, the atmosphere [would relax.]
And in villages, sure, there is a sense of not being paid attention to by other Armenians first of all. So, someone coming from an international organization and caring about what their daily life looked like certainly got a positive reaction.
Rural similarities and differences
AR: You have also done field research in rural parts of Turkey; how similar are problems in Armenia's rural areas to those in Turkey?
NG: There are similarities with Turkey, but frankly problems in Armenia are more similar to Azerbaijan's or Georgia's by virtue of the Soviet heritage and the breakdown of the Soviet system.
In Armenia, in some rural areas, people used to work in industry and had to readjust to working on land, but are still trying to hold on to some degree of their education.
That is different from eastern Turkey where industrialization has not yet reached. And people in Turkish villages were always there and education-wise they are not where the villagers of Armenia are.
And of course in eastern Turkey there is the conflict with the Kurdish insurgency which taps into identity issues and relations with the Turkish state.
Other than that, in terms of underdevelopment, the lack of amenities and limited opportunities, they are similar.
Armenian-Turkish engagement and where it could lead
AR: Having focused on Armenia for several years now, what is your sense of Armenia's main challenges?
NG: When we began working in Armenia, our focus was not on Armenia-Turkey relations. But we soon saw that the debate on the political scene, what politicians are accused of, is usually about concessions they are [ostensibly] ready to make to Turkey. Or the debate on the economy, why Armenia's economy is in a state it is in: Oh, it is because Turkey has closed the border.
So, we realized we could not avoid the Turkey issue if we were to discuss Armenia's challenges. Frankly, I think more and more people realize in Armenia that the source of Armenia's problems today is not necessarily Turkey. Yes, Turkey's border being closed does create some challenges, but were it to open tomorrow it would create other obstacles to recovery of the economy as well.
But Armenia's challenges certainly go beyond the border issue.
AR: On the issue of the border opening: Today, with the border closed, certainly that keeps people apart but not just from cooperating; it also limits conflict. In your sense, would a potential border opening be necessarily a step toward normalization, or just toward a different form of confrontation?
NG: I have thought about this question. Results of the Armenian-Turkish dialogue so far have been positive. Many more Turks come to Armenia, and many more Armenians go to Turkey. That is all very positive and contributes to a positive change in how people perceive each other.
Strong feelings in Armenia
On the other hand, there are issues that we are sweeping under the rug that might come to the surface more should there be [more direct contact via] an open border.
For example, in Turkey there is this perception that diaspora Armenians are the ones who insist on recognition of genocide internationally, and talk about lands and compensation. And that Armenian-Armenians are brotherly neighbors who don't share those views necessarily.
Ironically, this view has been promoted by Turkish liberals, including some liberal columnists, in an attempt [to make the Turkish public] more comfortable about relations with Armenia and so that negative feelings about genocide recognition are not transferred to Armenia in Turkish minds.
But I think there would be a rude awakening when the border does open, and more Turkish nationalists get a chance to meet with Armenians from Armenia, who actually feel quite strongly about genocide recognition.
The Turkish public needs to be ready for that and prepare to hear that.
[Having said all that,] there is really no other way forward, and many Armenians and Turks would have to agree to disagree on certain issues, and that might be the case for some time. And I think if we have some tolerance toward different opinions on both sides, there will be many opportunities to find common ground and similarities.
Many Turks who come to Armenia are astounded at how similar the cuisines, the dances are, the way people look and carry themselves.
Why Turks should care about Armenians
AR: What do you think should or could happen between Armenians and Turks, for them to become nations with historical, but not necessarily present-day problems?
NG: I could speak from the Turkish perspective on this.
Strong political leadership in Turkey is important. A sincere attitude in terms of remorse – I don't know if it is the right word – for the past needs to be emanating from Ankara. And that can be in the form of words, but beyond that having a memorial that is dedicated to the Armenians that were in Anatolia – right now, as you know, we have a memorial to Turks who died in that period.
Definitely, [another thing to do is] owning up to the cultural heritage of Armenians. Having one Holy Cross Church on Aghtamar restored should not be the end. There are other Armenian churches and monasteries that need to be approached with respect and acknowledgement of their Armenianness.
There can be a multitude of steps that could demonstrate a new attitude of Ankara and the past treated with more openness and more regret.
The current government has been inconsistent about its rhetoric on Armenia. There are positive developments, such as more open debate. But on the other hand, while suggesting a historical commission, [Turkish leaders] claim with certainty that there was no genocide. If you are proposing a free and independent study, you can't be making a judgment like that before the study is realized.
AR: Regarding the historical commission, do you see it as purely an element of the public-relations effort – to deflect genocide recognition – or could there be an opportunity there as well?
NG: I don't think [a commission], a state-driven initiative, would change the hearts and minds of Turks and Armenians, nor that it should.
It depends on how it is designed, what its mandate is. I think a commission to facilitate research on this issue can only help, if it is going to involve opening of archives, a meeting of minds, independent scholars from around the world, a platform for discussion that is open and constructive, then fine.
But we have to adjust our expectations. I don't think anybody really expects that [a commission] would work and solve the differences. I think we should be used to different opinions that can come closer together over time, but not necessarily be resolved all together.
I think when there is a critical mass in [Turkish] society leaning in a particular way, the government will follow that lead.
AR: Why should a critical mass of Turks care about Armenia or the Armenian issue?
NG: Because the Armenian issue is a core issue when it comes to Turkish identity, and the state's relationship [with the public]. When you see liberal intellectuals confronting the state in Turkey, the Armenian issue is one of the issues at hand.
It symbolizes the Turkish state's monopoly over history learning for many years. The Armenian issue is not the only issue that the Turkish education system has selectively opposed; there are many others.
As Taner Akcam noted, the issue is not Armenia; the issue is the Turkish state and its relationship with its citizens. And as Turkish society evolves and becomes more democratic, there will be more questions about what else we have been misled about or not allowed to speak of freely.
In the end, what it means to be a Turk is very intertwined with the Armenian issue.
AR: Do you think Turkey will ever come to a point when it would be ready to offer some sort of compensation – financial or even physical – for the Armenian Genocide?
NG: There has been very positive progress in recent years in terms of allowing for a more open debate in Turkey about Ottoman Armenians, giving more space to challenging views. And considerable progress on minority issues in Turkey. On culture, too, there have been important strides forward: restoration of a church in Diyarbakir is now underway, for example, due partly to changes in foundations law recently.
In terms of compensation [pauses]. I don't think there is a way to hold Turkey legally liable in the foreseeable future. Turkey might be interested in making some gestures toward the Armenians who are descendants of Anatolia families. There is a discussion among intellectuals in Turkey as to what kind of gestures these could be. From benefits in acquiring lands to inviting members of the diaspora to help them find their roots, it is a wide range of possibilities.
Would Turkey actually be sitting down to try to determine financial compensation? We have not found legal ground for that. In foreseeable future, I think gestures will be of different nature.
There is, I think, genuine desire in Ankara to right some wrongs of the past, but there is also a risk of moving too fast and generating a political backlash.
Considering the defensive tone that has dominated in Turkey – you just can't go from that [to paying compensation]. More time is needed.
AR: From an Armenian perspective, of course, plenty of time has elapsed – more than 90 years.
NG: Definitely. But if you look at how much Turkey changed on this issue in the last nine years – it is much more than any change that had occurred from 1915 to 2000. Since 2000 there has been dramatic change. So don't look at the last 90 years, look at the last nine years.
Karabakh linkage and purpose of the "road map"
AR: What about the conflict in Karabakh? Do you see Turkey continuing to side with Azerbaijan on that to the degree it has until now, or do you see a debate and possible evolution there?
NG: The Karabakh issue is difficult. Most people in Turkey see a grave injustice committed to detriment of Azeris and that also no one in the world acknowledges that.
For Turks that is seen as "classical" example of Turkish people being wronged by the international community. Believe it or not, there is a complex of victimization psychology in Turkey as well and in that sense [Azerbaijan] is seen as an extension of Turkey.
But the perception of Turkey and Azerbaijan being "ethnic" brethren is stronger than the reality of it.
Secondly, there is also a feeling for many in Ankara that a Karabakh resolution is not that difficult and can even be done this year, and that is where there is a lack of realism.
But if you ask, who in this region has taken land and given it back, it is hard to find example of that. So, there is not a simplified view of Karabakh [in Turkey]; there is not a very good understanding of it.
There is also a fear of "losing" Azerbaijan to Russia, grounded or not. And the sentiment is that there is more vested economic interest of Turkey in Azerbaijan than there could be in Armenia.
Those in the Turkish press who argued that Turkey should take the Azerbaijani side – who are a minority right now – [tend to] engage in very simple economic calculations, comparing populations and energy resources.
AR: So where do you see Turkey going on this issue?
NG: The Turkish prime minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] has said over and over again in April and in May that there would be no normalization with Armenia until there is resolution in Karabakh. He said that so many times in so many different environments that it is difficult to conceive that he could do something that would be totally detached.
What he could do is spin some kind of development on Karabakh – that may not necessarily be a major development – as one more important than it really is and say, OK, this justifies a step toward Armenia. And there could be more steps like that, starting with establishment of diplomatic relations.
But it would be politically very difficult to disconnect [Armenia-Turkey relations] from Karabakh.
AR: What was then the purpose of the April 22 declaration by Armenia, Switzerland, and Turkey? Was it just a kind of "cease-fire" agreement to try to preempt "bad" resolutions in foreign parliaments?
NG: Turkey might hope that the "road map" would serve as a disincentive for some countries to pass genocide resolutions. Some people in Turkey might think that that might serve that purpose.
But whoever signs that paper on behalf of Armenia, be it president or foreign minister, does not have the authority to prevent the diaspora in the rest of the world from acting.
So, if that is the intention, then it is not realistic. But I don't think that is the only intention either. I would like to think that there is more to it than that.
Armies Will No Longer Participate In Politics, Says Kinzer
Stephen Kinzer, former chief of The New York Times bureau in İstanbul from 1996 to 2006, has said Turkey has started to handle its domestic and regional problems in a more democratic and peaceful way as the world has been evolving in the same direction, and in this world, there is no longer any military control of politics.
“The role of the military in Turkey has changed a lot. And it has to change more because in relation to what the world wants, armies do not participate in politics,” said Kinzer in İstanbul, where he was conducting research for his next book dealing with US relations with Iran, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Kinzer pointed out that the new US administration under President Barack Obama will support civilian democracy in Turkey in a stronger way.
“I certainly think that there will be no covert encouragement for the military to continue to play a role. For example, after the March 2003 vote about the Iraq war, one American official [former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz] went on television and said, ‘I was disappointed that the military didn't step up and play a role.' This was terrible. It's almost like encouraging a coup. You won't hear that anymore,” said Kinzer, who after completing his assignment to Turkey published “Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds.”
According to Kinzer Turkey can become a regional power, and this can benefit the United States as well.
“When [Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu goes to Pakistan, for example, he is able to talk to every faction. There are no doors closed to Turkey. But there are doors closed to America,” he said and added that “Turkey can talk to people we can't talk to. The strategic identity for Turkey that Davutoğlu sees fits in very well with Obama's foreign policy ideas.”
Kinzer expanded on the topic and more for Sunday's Zaman.
You reported from Turkey at the end of the 1990s, and you've been observing the country since then. What have you found striking in those years?
The 1990s were something like a lost decade for Turkey. There were weak coalition governments that were not able to implement coherent policies; violence in the Southeast was at a very high level; Turkey was fighting most of its neighbors; and the country just seemed adrift. Now a lot of it has changed.
What are those changes?
First of all, you have a strong government with broad popular support. Second, since 1999, when the EU accession project took on momentum, Turkey has had a framework for reform. The new government, at least in its early years, was much more committed to reforms. We used to hear from the so-called secular parties that “we must move ever closer to Europe and we must democratize.” But they did not do it. Certainly after 1999, you really saw democratization and modernization in this country. This country is now probably more democratic than it has ever been. It's also a great step forward that the “Cumhurbaşkanı” [president] would stand up and say, “The Kurdish problem is our number one problem.” You would not have heard that in the 1990s. We have gone from a time when a Kurdish kid in Diyarbakır could not even ask for “çay” [tea] in the Kurdish language to a time when you have a Kurdish TV station, and the university in Mardin is going to have a department of Kurdish language and literature. The other big change I see is Turkey's role in the world.
How do you think Turkey's role in the world is changing?
Ever since the days of Atatürk [Gazi Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey], Turkey looked mostly inward. There were some reasons for that. In the Kemalist period, Turkey was so primitive, had no roads, no schools and no hospitals. So there was so much work to do inside Turkey that they couldn't think about the world. And secondly, Gazi always wanted to calm the fears that they were going to try to build a new Ottoman Empire. That was important for that time. But now the whole [Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu project has something very important for Turkey.
What does it have?
Turkey is now looking at the possibility of becoming a regional power, and over the long run, even a global power. That's why it's opening up embassies in Latin America and Africa. But I see it going more or less in concentric circles. You want to have zero problems with neighbors, and then you can have a more regional influence, and it could go from there. I like the Turkish approach of promoting the idea of diplomacy, compromise, resolving problems with negotiations: “Let's try to get Israel and Syria together. Let's try to get America and Iran together. Let's try to get Russia and Georgia together.” Turkey has a unique ability to talk to different sides in conflicts. The strategic identity for Turkey that Davutoğlu sees fits in very well with Obama's foreign policy ideas. So Turkey's relationships with Europe and America have crossed over. If you went back to the beginning of this decade, the EU had just blessed Turkey and given it a chance to begin the accession process. Right after that George Bush was elected; as Europe was embracing Turkey, the US was bombing places. That made Europe the ideal partner. Now they've changed positions. Europe is not so friendly to Turkey, and I can see why Turks don't want to be so positive toward Europe. Meanwhile, America has emerged as a far different kind of player in the world that wants to resolve problems through diplomacy. It means the beginning of a new, close phase of cooperation between Turkey and the United States.
Do you think Turkey's diverse relations with a range of countries in the world would be all fine with the Obama administration?
Yes, I do. I don't think it was fine with the Americans all the time. We didn't like it when Turkey was talking to Iran. But Turkey didn't care and said, “We're going to talk to Iran anyway.” Now we like the idea that Turkey talks to Iran. That's why Davutoğlu's project and Obama's policies are very much in line. They can help each other.
Do you think relations could have been disastrous if the Republicans were in power in the United States?
Yes. For example, during the presidential campaign, John McCain was talking about the circumstances under which he would bomb Iran. Anybody who bombs Iran is doing something bad for Turkey. Look what happened with Iraq.
Now such threats come from Israel…
The relationship between Israel and the United States may also be changing.
In what way?
The relationship between the United States and Israel is developing. And I still feel that it is unlikely that Israel would take some hugely dramatic and radical step in the Middle East, like bombing Iran with the realization that America was 100 percent against it. If America says that “we don't like it but after all Israel is its own country,” that's kind of a signal, then, maybe Israel will do it. But if the United States makes it very clear that “we do not want you to do it,” which is what we are saying to Israel, then, it is hard for Israel to do it.
‘Unsolved problems: Armenia, Cyprus and Kurds’
You referred to Davutoğlu's foreign policy project of zero problems with neighbors. It has not been entirely achieved yet. What is your view of the most important unachieved problems in that regard?
Armenia, Cyprus and the Kurds. We were waiting for a big breakthrough on the Armenian issue, but it didn't happen. Obviously, there was a push back from Azerbaijan. However, Davutoğlu has told journalists that Turkey has not given up on this. That has a deadline every year because of the genocide resolution in Washington. We cannot get to next April 24 and still not have this resolved. The problem is how to bring Azerbaijan into the equation. This is an obstacle in Davutoğlu's achieving his diplomacy, compromise, negotiation policy in the world. When he goes out and tells Israel, for example, “You don't want to bomb Hamas. You want to talk to Hamas. You want to negotiate,” naturally they say, “What about you?” I love this phrase “Yurtta Sulh Cihanda Sulh” [Peace at Home, peace in the World]. But America and Turkey each have one half. America has peace at home. When we have conflicts in America, they are always peaceful. Turkey should learn from that. But we are warlike in the world. We need to learn from Turkey. Turkey has peace in the world. So each of us has half.
Why do you think the Kurdish issue is one of the most difficult to address?
Because it requires such a change in mindset with everything we've been told up to now. The policy still in the minds of most Turks has been “we must kill every terrorist.” We have to get past that. Kurds are brother citizens of the Turkish Republic. Every citizen has rights. They should be applied equally to all. There is also this existential fear in the Turkish soul that comes from the “Sèvres Syndrome.” One thing you see all through Turkish history is that Turkey does not stay isolated from the currents in the world. Even under Sultan Selim III, the French Revolution had an impact here. Then in the 19th century, the democratization in Europe had an impact here. This ideology of positivism in Europe really affected Mustafa Kemal and also had a negative effect in the 1930s. Europe embraced racist nationalism and the suppression of minorities. That also had an influence in Turkey. Then, after World War II, the United Nations was founded; countries were supposed to be more democratic. That's when we had the first election, multi-party system and [late Prime Minister Adnan] Menderes came in. In the 1980s and the early 1990s, the Cold War was ending, and countries were opening up to the market economy. There was Turgut Özal. Now the world is getting to a point where we want to resolve domestic conflicts democratically and peacefully. Turkey cannot remain apart from this.
You also said that Turkey is trying to become a global power and opening embassies in far-off places such as Latin America and Africa. There are also a lot of Turkish schools in those areas. What do you think of these?
I guess you can argue that there is going to be an Islamic component to this project, and this might be the best Islamic component you could have. Again, this requires an evolution in Turkey. But Turkey is playing a stabilizing role. As for Turkey really having an influence in Africa or in Latin America, we are a long way from that yet. Let's work on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, etc. Once Turkey establishes itself in the region, then we can think about bigger projects. But if you look 50 years ahead, if Turkey can succeed, it's reasonable. However, the upper limit is Turkey resolving the problems in the neighborhood. You've got to get those. As long as the Kurdish conflict is not solved, and Armenia and Cyprus are not solved, the amount that Turkey can do in the world is limited.
No more covert encouragement to the Turkish military by the US
Are you following the Ergenekon investigation?
How can you not? When it started, it was positive for many Turks. Some corners of the carpet are being turned up and the dirt underneath is being brought to light. But it seemed to run a bit out of control. I am wondering if it is being used politically by some people. It is good as long as it is kept within the limits that evidence proves and it doesn't just become a witch hunt against people with different ideas.
What did you think when you heard about the document published recently by Taraf daily allegedly detailing a smear campaign organized by the military against the ruling party and the Gülen movement?
I found it very troubling. I don't think we know the whole story yet. So there are three possibilities. Either it is a project of the General Staff or it is a project of someone in the army who is not connected to the General Staff or it is a fake. There is now journalism that brings it to light - - it's good.
Considering the fact that the military used to be so untouchable in the past -- as you know very well from the 1990s when you were here…
Yes. The role of the military in Turkey has changed a lot. And it has to change more because in relation to what the world wants, armies do not participate in politics.
The United States has been supporting the Turkish military…
That was true in the past.
What has changed now?
Support for civilian democracy is going to be ever stronger under the Obama administration. We will not subordinate our desire for democracy to our desire for security.
Do you think we will see some concrete steps concerning US relations with the Turkish military…
I certainly think that there will be no covert encouragement to the military to continue to play a role. For example, after the March 2003 vote about the Iraq war, one American official [former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz] went on television and said, “I was disappointed that the military didn't step up and play a role.” This was terrible. It's almost like encouraging a coup. You won't hear that anymore.
21 June 2009,YONCA POYRAZ DOĞAN Zaman
Obama And The Denial Of Genocide, David Boyajian, New Internationalist, June 22, 2009
This April, Barack Obama broke campaign promise #511, namely to explicitly acknowledge the Armenian genocide as US President. Mickey Z gets writer-activist David Boyajian's take on the new President's approach.
Writer-activist David Boyajian's investigative articles and commentaries have appeared in Armenian media outlets in the US, Europe, Middle East, and Armenia. The Newton Tab and USA Armenian Life newspapers named him among their `Top 10 Newsmakers of 2007'. So, when Barack Obama paid a visit to Turkey in April, it seemed like a good time to ask Boyajian for his take on the new President's approach to the issue of the Armenian genocide.
Mickey Z: This April, President Barack Obama broke campaign promise #511, namely to explicitly acknowledge the Armenian genocide as US President. What happened on his recent visit to Turkey? What are the ramifications of his breaking this promise?
David Boyajian: President Obama visited Turkey from 6 - 7 April, where he did not use the word `genocide' when referring to the 1.5 million murders committed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire against its Armenian citizens from 1915-1923. As a candidate, Obama had promised several times to do so. His statement in Turkey that he had `not changed his views' - implying he still believes it was genocide - was still a clear breach of his promise to use the `G word'. It was a case study in verbal gymnastics and political duplicity and should be studied in political science courses.
Obama's broken promise obviously eroded his credibility. The same holds true for Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, as senators, supported the Armenian genocide resolution. They've since fallen disgracefully silent. Dr. Samantha Power should also be embarrassed. She's the National Security Council's genocide expert and a Pulitzer Prize winning author. As a campaign adviser to Obama, she made a video telling Armenian Americans that as president, Obama would definitely acknowledge their genocide. `Take my word for it,' she said.
Appeasement of a genocide-denying country such as Turkey is bad policy because its message is that genocides can be committed without consequence. Appeasement also erodes US credibility on human rights and its stated desire to be a leader in genocide prevention. Unlike what lobbyists for Turkey would have us believe, Armenian genocide affirmation by America would not harm US national interests. Turkey depends on the US for weapons systems, support for billions in loans from the International Monetary Fund, security guarantees through NATO, advocacy for Turkish membership in the European Union, and more. Some 20 countries, including Canada, France, and Switzerland, as well as the parliaments of the EU and the Council of Europe, have acknowledged the Armenian genocide. None has ever experienced much more than a Turkish temper tantrum in retaliation.
MZ: Two days prior to Armenian Genocide Remembrance day - which annually falls on 24 April - Turkey and Armenia announced that they had agreed to a `roadmap' to normalize relations. What was the significance of this timing? What does the `roadmap' contain?
DB: Behind the scenes, the US State Department had long been twisting Armenia's arm to agree to a so-called `roadmap' with Turkey before President Obama issued what has become a customary '24 April statement' by US presidents marking Armenian Genocide Memorial Day. The `roadmap', announced on 22 April, provided political cover for Obama to not use the `G word' on 24 April. That is, since there was now supposedly a roadmap for normalization of relations - no matter how vague and hurriedly slapped together - Obama could say that he did not want to upset Turkey and the touted-as-highly-delicate Turkish-Armenian negotiations by using the `G word'. Notice that Obama did not consult with Armenian-Americans or Armenia about this. So much for promises and moral principles. It's disgraceful that Obama, simply to help Turkey save face, not only broke his promise, but showed blatant disregard for the activists - not just Armenians - who laboured so hard for many years for the cause of recognizing all genocides.
Armenia has always said that it was ready to normalize relations with Turkey - which would include Turkey's re-opening its border with Armenia - without pre-conditions. Suddenly, however, Armenia has had pre-conditions imposed on it in this `roadmap'. According to the Turkish press, the `roadmap' allegedly contains pre-conditions such as Armenia's agreeing to a joint commission to examine the veracity of the Armenian genocide (yes, you heard right), Armenia's formal recognition of current Turkish boundaries, which contain the Armenian homeland, and, possibly, Armenia's accepting Turkish mediation in the conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijan over the disputed Armenian region of Karabagh - which is absurd since Azerbaijan and Turkey are allies. It appears that Armenia's President, whose electoral legitimacy is in question, has been worn down in these negotiations by Turkey, the West, and possibly even Russia. And because the Armenian President is grappling with his legitimacy, he is not heeding the cautions being voiced by the people of his own nation about the `roadmap'.
MZ: The US Administration and mainstream media would have us believe that Turkey is seeking to `reconcile' with Armenia. Is `reconciliation' really a possibility, or have we misunderstood what's going on?
DB: The word `reconciliation' in relation to Armenian-Turkish relations is largely an invention of US policymakers, their emissaries, and the mainstream media who take their cues from them. What the US and Europe would like to see is a more stable Caucasus - that is, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia - with open borders. Open borders, you see, would facilitate laying more oil and gas pipelines that would originate in the Caspian Sea region and proceed west to Turkey and then to energy-hungry Europe and Israel. The US and Europe don't want to put it quite that crudely - no pun intended - so they try to depict Armenia and Turkey as possibly `reconciling' and thus resolving all their differences. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 out of sympathy with its ally Azerbaijan, which was in a war with the Armenians of Karabagh, a historically Armenian-populated autonomous area within Azerbaijan that Stalin handed to Azerbaijan. Turkey has also been infuriated that Armenia and Armenians worldwide have been demanding that Turkey acknowledge the genocide it committed against Armenians.
Turkey has to acknowledge the genocide or there will never be peace between it and Armenia. And although the Armenian Government has not put forth any claims for reparations arising out of the genocide, or for territory, many Armenians do have these goals. They cite the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920, which provided for Armenian sovereignty over Armenian lands upon which Turkey committed the genocide, and which have since been incorporated into what is now eastern Turkey.
MZ: The countries of the Caucasus are Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Most Americans, including the mainstream media, could not find these small countries on a map. Why are Russia and the US - the latter being thousands of miles from the region - so interested in these three small countries?
DB: The Caucasus is truly Ground Zero in Cold War II, the ongoing conflict between the US and Russia. The US - along with Europe and the NATO military alliance - regard Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan as middlemen between the West and the gas and oil-rich regions around the Caspian Sea. The West has already laid gas and oil pipelines from Azerbaijan through Georgia and then on to Turkey and the west. The US wanted those and future pipelines to bypass Russia and Iran because those two countries could shut such pipelines to pressure the US and others. The only possible pipelines routes, therefore, are through Georgia or Armenia. But Turkey shut its border with Armenia in 1993, and Azerbaijan closed its border with Armenia even earlier due to the conflict between it and the de-facto Armenian region of Karabagh. That left Georgia as the only place for these Western pipelines. After the Russian-Georgian war last year, however, opening an alternative route has become more urgent. That largely explains the West's renewed interest in Armenia. Conversely, Russia sees the Caucasus as within its traditional sphere of influence, and regards US and European interest in the region as hostile acts.
Simultaneously, NATO has been pushing into the region. Georgia, Azerbaijan, and to some extent even the ex-Soviet republics on the other side of the Caspian Sea, are on the path to joining NATO. Russia was already upset that, following the Cold War, NATO had absorbed the former Warsaw Pact nations of Eastern Europe. NATO is now attempting, in effect, to do the same thing on Russia's southern border. Russia fears that it will eventually be virtually surrounded by NATO. As a result, we have Cold War II: The US and NATO are trying to push into the Caucasus and Central Asia, while Russia is trying to keep them out.
MZ: Why is Israel interested in the Caucasus, and what role is that country playing? Why are Israel and the pro-Israel lobby dead set against recognition of the Armenian genocide by the US Congress?
DB: Israel is interested in getting some of the oil and gas that flow out of the Caspian Sea region.
That is, from countries such as Azerbaijan, oil and gas flow west through Georgia, and then on to Turkey and other countries, possibly including Israel. After all, the US and Turkey, which are important players in these pipelines, are obviously also very friendly with Israel. Israel also welcomes all non-Arab supplies of energy since they would make its Western allies less dependent on Arab oil and gas. And Israel has long had what it calls its Periphery Policy. Historically, Israel has not had good relations with its Arab neighbours. Therefore, to serve as counterweights, Israel befriends those countries further away, especially Muslim countries that aren't necessarily sympathetic to Israel's Arab neighbours or Palestinians. Azerbaijan, the only Muslim nation in the Caucasus, and some Muslim nations to the east, such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, are such countries. Fortuitously for Israel, they also possess significant deposits of gas and oil.
For decades, Israel and Turkey have had very good relations, mainly because they have a common ally, the US, and common adversaries, namely Arab nations. In the 1990s, Israel and Turkey signed a number of military, economic, and political agreements that solidified their relationship. Even before that, but particularly after that, Turkey felt that it did not have sufficient lobbying muscle in Washington. So the Turks asked Israel to convince some of the pro-Israel lobby - the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and others - to serve as advocates for Turkey. The Jewish lobby groups agreed. So these groups, as part of their deal with Turkey, deny or call into question the Armenian genocide and work to prevent US acknowledgement of that genocide.
These groups won't tolerate anyone questioning of the Holocaust, and yet hypocritically work against acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide. Interestingly, for the last 2 years, Armenian-Americans have exposed the ADL's hypocrisy. In Massachusetts, for example, 14 cities severed ties with an anti-bias programme sponsored by the ADL because of the latter's hypocritical and anti-Armenian stance (see NoPlaceForDenial.com). Armenians are determined to challenge genocide denial whenever it occurs.
MZ: Is there a problem with the way the mainstream media has been covering Armenian issues?
DB: Yes. The mainstream media have several problems. First, they know very little about the Caucasus or Armenians. Reporters tend, therefore, to copy each other and repeat clichés and falsehoods - such as that Armenia and Turkey are on the verge of a historic `reconciliation'. Media also tend to accept at face value the propaganda issued by Western governments whose interest in the Caucasus is - let's be frank - not `reconciliation', democracy, or human rights, but rather self-interested economic, political, and military political penetration of the Caucasus.
Turkey has about 30 times more people and territory, and 50 times more Gross Domestic Product, than Armenia. The power differential is enormous. Turkey has infinitely more allies in Western media, governments, think tanks, and multi-national corporations - and knows how to use them. Commentators who have a vested interest in touting Turkey for their own political and even financial reasons have particularly come out of the woodwork to deride legitimate Armenian demands. But we rarely hear commentators speak of how a small country that has been the victim of genocide, that has had most of its territory stripped from it, and that has been blockaded by the denier of that genocide -Turkey - is being threatened by that very same unrepentant denier. Mainstream media largely fail to appreciate the foregoing facts. Hopefully, Mickey, this interview will help the media and your readers understand the issues and the region a bit better.
Mickey Z is a self-educated writer, personal trainer, martial artist, and vegan who lectures on US foreign policy at MIT in his spare time. He is the author of numerous books, including Fifty American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know, The Seven Deadly Spins, and most recently, CPR for Dummies and No Innocent Bystanders. He lives with his wife Michele in New York City. Visit him on the web at www.mickeyz.net.
German Journalıst Köhne: Cohn-Bendit, Swedish Presidency Valuable For Turkey
Gunnar Köhne, who has been reporting from İstanbul for German broadcasting stations since 1996, has said that following the recent European Parliament (EP) elections, the general picture in the EP has not changed for Turkey, but there is both good and bad news: Many pro-Turkey politicians are no longer members of the EP, but on the other hand, there is the success of the Greens in France, as well as the Swedish takeover of the EU presidency.
“The good thing is that Daniel Cohn-Bendit, heading the Greens in France, has had huge success … He is the winner of the elections in France despite his pro-Turkey approach,” he said. “Another thing is the Swedish takeover of the EU presidency. It is a great advantage for Turkey.”
Influential European politicians who oppose Turkey's membership, such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are still powerful, he said, noting, however, that Turkey should concentrate on reforms.
“Turkey should not look very much at what is going on in France and Germany but should concentrate on what they always claim [to be doing]: fulfilling the Ankara criteria. That's what Turkish politicians have always said -- that Turkey is doing the reforms for its own citizens,” he stressed.
‘The general picture, pro or contra Turkey in the EP, has not changed. What is a pity for Turkey is that many individuals who were engaged in getting Turkey on board are no longer members of parliament. … But the good thing is that Daniel Cohn-Bendit, heading the Greens in France, has had much success
He also explored the question of whether there would be a mentality change in favor of Turkey in some European countries if Turkey moves on with its reforms.
“At least the process would not stop,” he said.
The success of center-right parties opposed to Turkey's EU membership has been interpreted by many observers as a new blow to Turkey's already troubled EU bid. The European Commission has frozen eight out of 35 negotiation chapters over the Cyprus dispute and will review the situation in December. In November, the EU will publish its annual enlargement progress report, which is expected to be critical of the lack of key reforms of late, in contrast with the highly enthusiastic reform spirit of the 2003-2004 period.
Köhne Elaborated On The Significance Of The EP Elections For Turkey, the EU's Future And What It Is Like To Report From Turkey
The European Parliament looks more colorful than before. What do you think this says?
Gunnar Köhne, 13 years of reporting from Turkey
Based in İstanbul, he has been reporting for Deutsche Welle TV, ARTE and public radio stations in Germany since 1996. His books include “Die Zukunft der Menschenrechte. 50. Jahre UN-Erklarung: Bilanz eines Aufbruchs” (The Future of Human Rights: 50th Anniversary of the UN Declaration) in 1998 and a travel book about Turkey called “Marco Polo Reiseführer Türkei” (Marco Polo Guidebook Turkey) in 2001.
The basic power sharing is the same, although the conservatives have gotten stronger and the socialists have gotten weaker. In addition, we have new groups of Euroskeptics in the parliament, but they are so marginal that they won't have the ability to influence any EP decisions. The decision-making in the EU Parliament is limited, anyway. The EU Commission proposes rules and regulations which need the approval of the parliament. Again, many of those need the approval of national parliaments. So the EP is not so powerful.
We also saw a record low when it comes to voter turnout.
It is basically the same. Always low. It is hard to communicate to the people how important the EP is. Additionally, there are countries where there are several elections this year, for example, Germany. So people get tired of elections and make a choice of voting either in national polls or in the EP. And many of the EP politicians are not public figures the way the politicians who run in national polls are.
Can we say that the EU has been built without the participation of the public or despite the public?‘German journalists probably busiest correspondents in Turkey'
What topics in Turkey are most appealing for the German media?
Germans are interested in everything in Turkey, politics, culture, travel. German journalists are probably the busiest correspondents in Turkey. But there has been a slight decrease in interest since the exciting changes of the late 1990s until today. The country has changed a lot since then.
What kind of changes are you referring to?
The politics has changed a lot since the Çiller-Erbakan years when I came here. When it comes to democracy and human rights, the country has improved a lot compared to the 1990s. In the Southeast, they are now digging up the remains of people who were victims of extrajudicial killings. Those were the '90s in the Southeast. When you look at cities like Diyarbakır today you see a different picture.
What do you see?
Diyarbakır was a very depressing place 13 years ago. Now it is pretty much a normal metropolis. You have the feeling that it has turned to normality in many aspects. [In İstanbul,] look at Beyoğlu. There were a couple of movie theaters there 13 years ago. It was a run down place. Now it is one of the main attractions for tourists or for people who want to explore the cultural life of the city. But compared to five years ago, the most exciting time seems to be over. Also the years of reform seem to have come to an end in 2004. So there is less interest from German publishers for stories from Turkey, especially in this time of economic crisis. They question whether or not they need a correspondent in Turkey.
Any other issues you would like to touch upon?
I find it very sad that there is so little foreign reporting in the Turkish media. Turkey is very introverted in that regard. If you want to bring your country into the EU, you need to show people the advantages, differences and all that is going on abroad. When Turkey is part of the news, it is news, but when Turkey is not part of the news, it is not news.
Not entirely. Where you have a high turnout is when you have a referendum in the EU. Look at the Irish referendum [saying no to the Treaty of Lisbon]. There is big polarization when it comes to saying “yes” or “no” to a bigger or smaller EU, although many people did not know what the Lisbon Treaty was when they were voting on it. But the referendums showed that there is an interest in EU matters. There is also a growing awareness that our daily lives are influenced by the EU although that is not so easy to see.
How so? Would you elaborate?
We have a big economic crisis now, and for the unemployed in Germany, it is hard to see whether or not the EU can help them. But if you look at what the EU has been doing for the countries who were hit hard by the crisis -- Hungary, the Baltic states -- they would not be able to survive without the help of the big European family. People there would value the EU contribution to their own lives much more than in bigger countries, which feel more like they are only paying.
When it comes to the accession of Turkey to the EU, how do you think the recently elected EP will influence the process?
The general picture, pro or contra Turkey in the EP, has not changed. What is a pity for Turkey is that many individuals who were engaged in getting Turkey on board are no longer members of the parliament, Joost Lagendijk, for example, or Cem Özdemir. But the good thing is that Daniel Cohn-Bendit, heading the Greens in France, has had huge success, winning 16 percent. He is the winner of the elections in France despite his pro-Turkey approach.
But Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) took more seats than the Socialists and Greens put together, winning 30 of France's 72 seats.
In the end, it is always the powerful countries like France and Germany which have a major say in the enlargement process. There is also the rule of unanimity when it comes to voting on EU decisions. EU member states have been discussing whether or not to change the unanimity requirement since there is always a state which can oppose decisions when you have 27 members.
You still find it important that the French Greens have gained some power.
Sixteen percent is really good. Sarkozy is still very powerful. But there will be new presidential elections and there will be parliamentary elections before we come to the day that Turkey can enter the EU as it successfully fulfills the criteria and completes negotiations. Then, there may be a totally different picture in the EU. Sarkozy and Merkel will not be there, either. So in about 2015, we may have a different political picture in the EU. Turkey should not look very much at what is going on in France and Germany but should concentrate on what they always claim [to be doing]: fulfilling the Ankara criteria. That's what Turkish politicians have always said -- that Turkey is doing the reforms for its own citizens.
How do you see the EU's future after the EP elections?
Europe is in the middle of a serious economic crisis. Just recently, one of the major warehouse companies in Germany collapsed. We are talking about 60,000 workers who lost their jobs. That is really the news. When it is bad, people become introspective. When it is good, they are more open to the happenings beyond their borders. And when it is bad, nationalists gain more ground. I just read that Polish people buy houses on the German side of the border because those houses are half the price, and they are settling there. That is good for the area because people shop there, pay taxes and so on. But suddenly, the Germans tell them, “Go back to Poland.” That shows that the idea of “the united states of Europe” is not deeply rooted.
‘In Germany, the issue is the economy'
I heard from another German journalist last week that pre-election media coverage of Turkey always increases in Germany even though it is not a major topic. What do you think?
In Germany, the issue is the economy. There is a general feeling of being a little bit tired of the Turkey discussion in Germany even among those who are for Turkey. Many people think that Turkey's accession is not an immediate question anymore and that Turkey is the one which is not progressing on the accession issue.
What do we see from the EU point of view when it comes to the Cyprus issue, considering the fact that it was the EU that accepted a divided land into the union and then punished Turkey by closing eight negotiation chapters even though it was Turkey that was for the Annan plan and not the Greeks?
That was five years ago. Many in the EU say, “Yes, we did something wrong, but it happened, and we have to move forward.” Turkey must now cope with the situation. The best way is to go forward if you really want to achieve membership and show the determination to fulfill the criteria.
Do you think there could be a mentality change in favor of Turkey in some European countries if Turkey moves on with its reforms?
At least the process would not stop. Another thing is the Swedish takeover of the EU presidency. It is a great advantage for Turkey. Turkey should see that as well and use it.
Many observers say German Chancellor Merkel will be the winner following the national elections in Germany in September. Do you agree?
It's not clear with what partner, but she will certainly be the first. The question is whether or not she will be able to make it with the liberals. If not, the big and boring coalition of the [Christian Democratic Union of Germany] CDU plus the Social Democrats is likely to continue.
Is there a chance for a pro-Turkey coalition?
No. The Greens are the only ones who clearly advocate Turkey's accession. But keep in mind that Turkey has not made it easy for its friends with its current performance. The Greens wouldn't print posters for Turkey at the moment either.
Where is the difficulty?
For example, the new foreign minister of Turkey often speaks differently than the EU chief negotiator. This is also true for the officials in the government. One minister says that yes, they will continue the reform process. Then, the next day, another minister says it is the EU that needs to do its homework. [When it comes to concrete policies] there is no movement on the situation of the Halki Seminary or on the Kurdish question. There are mixed messages from the government on other issues as well. One day a government official says Turkey is better off without a deal with the [International Monetary Fund] IMF, and the next day, some other official says the opposite.
15 June 2009, Yonca Poyraz Doğan, Zaman
Azerbaijan Is A Special Country I Know I Can Trust In – Interview With Israeli President Shimon Peres, 25 June 2009, Today.Az
Exclusive interview of European Desk of Trend News Agency with President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres
Question: You are scheduled to visit Azerbaijan next week. What documents will be signed during the visit? How do you estimate the present and how do you see the future of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Israel?
Answer: Well, there are many things in common. First of all, Azerbaijan discovered the great wealth of gas and is head a cultural bust which is quite impressive. People don't know it, but Azerbaijan gave a right to women to vote before the Swiss and before the Americans. Azerbaijan has shown patience and respect to the place where the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians can live together without hatred, without fanaticism. So, for me it is a special country that I know I can trust in and has cultural background. Oil you can buy, but culture you have to create. And Azerbaijan created culture.
Azerbaijan is a small people. Azerbaijan and Israel have the same problem. How can small people become greater in spite of their size? You can become great irrespective of the size of your land if you adopt modern science and technology.
President of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliev provokes the highest respect. I found him extremely humane, almost modest, educated, and sophisticated. It's a pleasure to talk with him. He showed interest in these domains: agriculture, water, health, and high tech. We discussed it.
Israel doesn't almost have either land, or water, or gas, or petrol. So, we have to hang in our brains, in our science and we should share whatever we have, whatever Azerbaijan wants. The great thing about Israel is that we are not dangerous. We are too small to danger anybody. But on the other hand we are developed and we are ready to share with our friends whatever we can offer in the domain of development and science and so on. In that we can cooperate fully.
We have the culture, we have the will and the readiness. I also met the father of the present president [of Azerbaijan]. I was impressed of him very much. I have met him twice. He was the man of tradition and intelligence.
I also know that Azerbaijan has problem around. Basically, the problems stem from your neighbors. Because in politics you cannot choose your neighbors, as in the family you cannot choose your parents. It is a fact of life. Israel is totally for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. We don't think that one country can come and annex a part of another land.
So, even before visiting the country (I have been there once) I have a great deal of sympathy. And also historically a profound thing for the way that Azerbaijan has handled the Jewish people. Many of them have emigrated to Israel. They carry with them very warm feeling to Azerbaijan. And they have a special flavor to your own society. So, I think that there is a collection of reasons that makes one very much interested in coming visit to your land.
Q: Do you expect expansion of diplomatic ties between the two countries?
A: I hope you will have a full embassy in Israel. It gets needed. I think more the cooperation goes up it is natural consequence of the relationship. It is going to happen, because I hope that we shall enrich our relations in this visit. There are many people coming from Israel with this matter, accompanying us in this visit. We want to establish better ties in the name of economy and in the name of science. And then the embassies will be very necessary on both sides.
Q: You said that Israel supports territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Israel has been taking constructive role in the regard to resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Is Israel prepared to more active involvement in the process of settlement?
A: We are a small country. We are not a weighty power. We can express our views and with our views we can contribute. But we are not a wealthy power, when it comes to our views, our attitudes and positions. I think else Azerbaijan would like very much to come closer not only with Israel, but with Jewish life abroad, and even in the United States of America. And we can do only what we can - to support the integrity of Azerbaijan in all domains.
Q: Israel has recently expressed its intention to get Azerbaijani gas that runs from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia. However, a pipeline that will go from Turkey to Israel through the Mediterranean Sea is needed in this respect. What volume of gas purchase is possible? And what who will undertake the expenses?
A: The minister of infrastructure is coming with me. He handles that issue and I would prefer him to answer this question, because he knows more details of it. But the purpose of his coming is really to check the real possibilities of connecting and bringing the Azerbaijani gas to Israel.