Virulent Anti-Armenian Turkish Diplomat
Invites Armenian Americans to "Dialogue"
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Turkish officials in the United States contacted various Armenian-American
organizations and individuals last week inviting them to separate meetings
with Ambassador Ecvet Tezcan, the Director of the Department of Intelligence
and Research at the Foreign Ministry of Turkey.
The invitation elicited two different types of reactions from the Armenian
community. The Armenian National Committee of America refused the Turkish
offer and, in a letter to other organizations, urged them "to resist renewed
efforts by the Turkish Government to manipulate the Armenian American
community and undermine recent progress toward U.S. recognition of the
The ANCA said that the real purpose of the proposed meeting "is to deceive
the U.S. political community into believing that a 'direct dialogue with
Armenians' is currently in process. The specific intent of this effort is to
derail our community's most recent progress in the U.S. Congress toward
recognition of the Armenian Genocide."
The ANCA considers the timing of this Turkish initiative suspect, as it
comes in the wake of the unanimous approval of the Genocide Resolution by
the House Judiciary Committee on May 21st; the adoption on June 5th of
critical amendments in the European Parliament's report on Turkey's
application for membership to the European Union; and the serious strains in
U.S.-Turkish relations following Turkey's refusal to allow coalition forces
to open a northern front in the war on Iraq.
The ANCA also views the Turkish invitation as the continuation of the
efforts made by "the same political forces" that came up with the Turkish
Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC). The ANCA believes that the
proposed meeting "seeks to buy time for Turkey, delaying consideration of
the Genocide Resolution until the Turkish Government, aided by its
lobbyists, has had time to repair the damage to its relations with the
The ANCA warned, "any meetings with a Turkish government operative at this
level will be used to undermine our Genocide recognition efforts in
Congress." It recommended that Armenian organizations "not facilitate" the
Turkish efforts by refusing "to be part of these discussions."
The Armenian Assembly of America, on the other hand, told the Turks that it
would agree to hold a meeting with Amb. Tezcan if he accepted to discuss the
following issues: 1) The recognition of the Armenian Genocide; 2)
Turkey/Armenia relations and open borders; 3) The Karabagh issue; and 4) The
treatment of the Armenian minority in Turkey.
"If Armenians always refused to talk directly to the Turks, no matter what
the opportunity, it will certainly be used against us in Washington. It is a
given in American policy and that of interested third parties, that disputes
be addressed through face-to-face meetings. As recently as last week,
Armenia's Foreign Minister held talks with his Turkish counterpart in
Spain," said Peter Vosbikian, the Chairman of the Assembly's Board of
Directors. "Why would any Armenian organization refuse an opportunity to
present our case directly to the Turks? We don't need to give Turkish
lobbyists the ammunition of being able to tell Senators next week that the
Armenian-American community refused an offer to meet with a Turkish diplomat
to discuss the issues that currently divide us," Vosbikian added.
The Armenian Assembly informed the community that this Turkish request comes
on the eve of the introduction of a Genocide Resolution in the U.S. Senate
following the adoption of a similar bill by the House Judiciary Committee
Even though the two Armenian lobbying organizations took a different
position on this issue, it w
as very encouraging that they at least consulted
each other before making their decisions. The fact that they discussed with
each other the merits of the Turkish invitation before going public with
their individual decisions was, in my view, a positive development in the
relationship of these two groups. While they disagreed this time around, if
they continue such consultations, more often than not, they will find that
they are in agreement on their objectives and the means to accomplish them.
The other commendable aspect is that both organizations immediately made
public the fact that a Turkish diplomat had contacted them and informed the
Armenian community of their decisions. This above board approach eliminates
any and all accusations of private conversations and secret deals with
Turkish officials. Thus, they avoided making the serious error of those who
participated in TARC. There are unconfirmed reports that a small number of
Armenian organizations have agreed to meet with this Turkish diplomat.
Regrettably, however, these groups have not disclosed to the Armenian
community that they are planning to hold such a meeting.
Those organizations that are accepting the Turkish invitation should
immediately take three important steps: 1) They should inform the Armenian
community that they are meeting with a Turkish official; 2) Prior to that
meeting, they should consult with other Armenian groups so they can
coordinate their positions and avoid giving conflicting signals to Turkey
about the Armenian demands; and 3) Pledge to make public the full record of
their discussions with the Turkish diplomat in order to avoid the appearance
of holding secret talks with the Turks. The Armenian Assembly has already
carried out the first two steps and has made a pledge on the third one.
The fact that some Armenian organizations have agreed to meet with this
Turkish official while others have not, works to the advantage of the
Armenian community. The Turks will neither be able to say that Armenians are
against dialogue, nor be able to undermine the Genocide resolution by
telling the Congress not to get involved in this issue since Armenian and
Turkish leaders are engaged in direct discussions.
I was also approached by some intermediaries to see if I would be interested
in meeting with Ambassador Tezcan. I turned down the suggestion for the
1) The Turkish government is under a lot of pressure from the U.S. and the
European Union to engage "in dialogue" with the government of Armenia as
well as the Armenian Diaspora in order to resolve outstanding issues dealing
with Armenia and the Armenian Genocide. Even though such pressures have been
exerted on Turkey for many years, the Turks have adamantly refused to pay
any heed to them. However, a combination of recent factors, such as, U.S.
anger at the Turkish betrayal on the Iraq war, Turkey's eagerness to join
the European Union, and the increasing number of governments recognizing the
Armenian Genocide, has forced the Turkish government to appear a bit more
accommodating than in the past. The problem, however, is that the Turks want
to play the game of appearing to be accommodating without being actually
accommodating, so they can score points with both Washington and the E.U.,
by claiming that they have established contacts with the Armenian Diaspora
and are trying to resolve their differences. If this is indeed the game that
the seasoned Turkish diplomats want to play, why should Armenian-Americans
go along with this clever ploy? When the Turks become serious about
resolving their differences with the Armenians and are ready to make real
concessions on some of these issues, Armenians then could accept to sit down
with them at the negotiating table.
2) The Turkish government has made a serious mistake in assigning the
responsibility of initiating such a di
alogue to a virulent anti-Armenian.
How could any Armenian American sit across the table from a Turk who has
publicly and repeatedly denied the Armenian Genocide by calling it "a
concocted Armenian genocide" and "so-called genocide claims." If that is not
insulting enough, he has shamelessly claimed that Armenians are the ones who
"organized genocides against the Turkish people throughout history and
invaded the Turkish lands." (Anadolu Agency, May 1, 1998). Furthermore, he
has advocated the dismemberment of the Republic of Armenia by claiming that
the Meghri region of Armenia actually belongs to Azerbaijan. (ANS-TV, Baku,
June 13, 2001).
Imagine if a German official who had denied the Holocaust, had said that the
Jews are the ones who had committed the Holocaust against the Germans, and
that parts of the State of Israel (not the occupied territories) actually
belong to a neighboring Arab country. How many Jewish American groups or
individuals would agree to meet with such an official during his U.S. visit?
There would not even be a discussion among Jewish groups whether to meet
with him or not. It's questionable whether such a Holocaust denier could
even get a visa to visit the U.S.
Some Armenians may want to have a dialogue with such a terrible Turk. I
would not. The least the Turkish government could do is send an official
that has not said such terrible things against Armenians. Maybe then, some
Armenians, in all good conscience, can have a real dialogue with him.