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Dialogue Reaches a Dead-End
07/03/2003
Turkish-Initiated Dialogue with Diaspora,
As Expected, Reaches a Dead-End

 
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
 
The Turkish diplomatic offensive launched against the Armenian Diaspora in
recent weeks, under the guise of dialogue, has hit a dead-end.
 
Two years ago, with the backing of the State Department, Turkey attempted a
similar ploy by initiating the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission
(TARC). When that phony dialogue (between six Turks, most of them retired
diplomats, and four self-appointed Armenians) failed to convince the
Diaspora to give up the struggle for Hye Tad (Armenian Cause), the United
States and the European Union pressured the Turkish government to make a
more direct pitch to the Armenian Diaspora. The Turks agreed by shrewdly
deciding to give the appearance of being accommodating to Armenians without
having any such intentions.
 
For the past several months, various Turkish officials had been dropping
hints that they are considering the opening of their country's border with
Armenia. They made it seem that the lifting of the blockade was a gesture of
goodwill towards the Armenians. Of course, this was a double deception.
First of all, the Turks had no plans to open the border. They were simply
using that possibility as a bait to try and snatch an important concession
from the Armenian side. Secondly, should the Turks ever decide to open the
border, they would do so not to help Armenia but to boost the economy of the
destitute towns on the Turkish side.
 
Some Armenians temporarily fell for this ploy. With the best of intentions,
several groups met with a high-ranking Turkish envoy in New York and Los
Angeles last month. They were encouraged by Turkey's offer for dialogue with
the hope that the Turks may have decided to take some positive steps.
 
While these meetings were taking place around the middle of June, various
Turkish newspapers were reporting that Prime Minister Rejeb Tayyip Erdogan
was going to make a major announcement on the opening of the
Armenian-Turkish border during his visit to Kars on June 27. These reports
raised the expectation among some Armenians that there was a change in the
traditional Turkish obstructionist policy.
 
Despite the optimistic Turkish press reports, it was difficult to believe
that anything had changed. On the contrary, while Amb. Ecvet Tezcan, the
Turkish Foreign Ministry's Director of Intelligence and Research, and a
staunch denier of the Armenian genocide, was presenting himself to his
Armenian-American interlocutors as a firm believer in dialogue, the Turkish
State TV was airing a series of government-financed propaganda films that
depicted the Armenian Genocide as a hoax. To make matters worse, the Turkish
Minister of Education for the first time issued a directive ordering all
students, including those in Armenian schools, to write essays on the
"genocide committed by the Armenians against the Turks!" Furthermore, at a
critical time when the Turks are supposedly on their best behavior in order
to facilitate their entry into the European Union, they tried to shut down
two major Armenian charitable organizations in Istanbul. The Turkish
government revoked the charitable status of Holy Cross Armenian High School
and is in the process of confiscating its building. It also dismissed the
elected Board of the Karageuzian Armenian Orphanage.
 
As if these anti-Armenian actions were not sufficient to dampen any
expectations of good will from Turkey towards Armenians, Ugur Ziyal, the
Undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, unabashedly told reporters
at the National Press Club in Washington on June 18 that neither dialogue
nor political pressure would ever lead Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian
Genocide for the simple reason that "no genocide had taken place."
 
Both Ziyal and a nine-member Turkish Parliamentary group, while visiting
Washington, met with various U.S. officials, demanding that they block a
pending congressional resolution which included a passing reference to the
Armenian Genocide. Deceptively, the Turkish Parliamentary group, while
lobbying against the Armenian Genocide on the Hill, was meeting with the
Armenian Assembly of America to promote "dialogue between Armenians and
Turks!"
 
Finally, after all this "dialogue," the long-awaited date of June 27 came
when Prime Minister Erdogan was supposed to announce the opening of the
Turkish-Armenian border. Not surprisingly, he did no such thing. Even worse,
he said that Turkey would not improve its relations with Armenia until the
latter changed its behavior. "Armenia is placing the sad events of the past
on the agenda of the United States and Europe," Erdogan said.
 
In other words, Erdogan, as his predecessors, pre-conditioned the
normalization of relations between the two states on Armenians renouncing
"all claims of genocide." This is a proposition that is uniformly rejected
by all Armenian groups in the Diaspora as well as the government of Armenia.
 
Now that yet another experiment on dialogue with Turkey has ended in
failure, Armenian American groups may consider taking the following steps:
 
1) Notify the U.S. government and the European Union that despite Armenians'
sincere attempts for dialogue, Turkey has obstructed their efforts by
creating unwarranted obstacles and placing unacceptable pre-conditions.
2) Armenian-American organizations should get together to review the lessons
learned from this latest experiment in dialogue and issue a joint statement
on any future attempts by Turkey to divide the Armenian community.
 
Armenians should no longer fall for Turkish ploys for dialogue. The Turkish
government has proven with its several recent anti-Armenian actions that it
has no intention of normalizing relations with Armenia or Armenians.
 
In this regard, it is interesting to note the bold statement made by the
Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul on June 30th to the Turkish "Sabah"
newspaper: "The Turkish authorities are telling the international community
that they want dialogue [with Armenians]. But, before they embark on a
dialogue with Armenia and the Diaspora, the most vivid example of dialogue
would have been, had the [Turkish] authorities fully recognized the
collective social, religious and educational rights of the Armenian
compatriots of the Republic of Turkey, and safeguarded these rights."
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