BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
On Monday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan addressed the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, where he lied throughout his presentation about Turkey’s economic progress, regional role as a so-called power player and made never-before-heard allegations regarding the Armenia-Turkey protocols process all in an attempt to paint a favorable picture of his country to the more than 150 in attendance.
In response to a question from the audience posed by Armenian National Committee of American Advisory Board member Levon Kirakossian, Babacan characterized the Armenia-Turkey Protocols process as one that from the onset was a three-pronged approach that involved the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. The actual document of the Protocols and all statements made during that time indicated that the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia would have no preconditions.
He explained to the audience that secret talks between Armenia and Turkey began in 2007 and were mediated by Switzerland, expressing that the two countries expressly agreed to the establishment of a commission that would “review the events of 1915.”
Babacan explained that in the absence of an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which would have resulted in a regional normalization agreement, the process had stalled.
Asbarez contacted the Armenian Foreign Ministry regarding the revelations made by Babacan. The Foreign Ministry referred Asbarez to an op-ed piece published in October 2010 in the Wall Street Journal and authored by Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, in which he said “Turkey has backtracked from the agreements. Not only has it refrained from ratifying the protocols, but Ankara has returned to the language of preconditions that it had used before the beginning of the process.”
In the piece, Nalbandian also said that while Turkey claims “they have no preconditions… they simply demand that we fulfill this or that before they can proceed with the ratification. Does this mean they have no preconditions?”
Babacan went on to say that there were tragic events that took place in 1915 during World War I, but the government of Turkey does not possess any proof to deem those events Genocide.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region wrote to the Turkish Consulate General asking to meet with Babacan while he was in Los Angeles. At press time, the ANCA-WR had not received a response.
Similarly, the ANCA-WR wrote to the leadership of the LAWAC urging the organization to cancel the event, arguing that “the Council would certainly not invite any of the following officials nor their representatives to speak: Jean Kambanda of Rwanda, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Pol Pot of Cambodia, or Heinrich Himmler of Nazi Germany; Mr. Babacan is a representative of such a genocidal regime.”
The LAWAC President Terry McCarthy told USC Annenberg’s Neon Tommy via telephone: “We have speakers from all spectrums of contentious issues and as a non-partisan organization, we don’t endorse the viewpoints of the speakers we host.”
Babacan’s remarks were tailored to appease what he thought was an unsuspecting audience. However, the extent of questions from the audience indicated that they were more aware of current trends in Turkish politics.
Questions ranging from the revelation of an Israeli spy ring in Iran, as retaliation for the Mavi Marmara incident to the ill-treatment and oppression of opposition forces, especially during the Gezi Park demonstrations were all treated with one response. Babacan told the audience that they should not rely on information they read in papers and they should be aware that in all instances “illegal organizations” were at the center of those issues.
Throughout his remarks, Babacan emphasized the continued inroads Turkey has made in advancing democratic principles, attributing the country’s economic growth to Turkey adherence to those norms and ignoring continued international criticism of its treatment of journalists, minorities and dissidents.
While commenting that the Los Angeles World Affairs Council is a forum for open discussion, its president Terry McCarthy praised Turkey’s so-called economic growth and highlighted the decision to hire Kobe Bryant to be the face of Turkish Airlines.
In what was he later said was a joke—in poor taste and in an affront to the Armenian-American community—Mc Carthy told the audience that the group of demonstrators outside the hotel “probably thought Kobe would be in attendance.”
Some 500 community members gathered outside of the InterContinental Hotel in Century City, where the event was taking place, to demonstrate Turkey’s lies.
The protest was organized by the Armenian Youth Federation United Young Armenians, which decried the LAWAC for hosting a “representative of the government responsible for the 1st genocide of the 20th century and the continued occupation of Western Armenia and over one third of Cyprus.”
“This fact that a representative from the government of Turkey is being given a platform in L.A., from which to spread false propaganda about all the amazing ways in which Turkey is a shining example of democracy in order to win the hearts and dollars of potential investors should be an outrage for us all–not just for Armenians, but all American citizens and all people who believe in democratic values,” the Executive Director of the Armenian Youth Federation Western Region, Stepan Keshishian told Neon Tommy in an interview.
“The economic environment in Turkey is founded on an unethical, immoral, and savage history, which the government actively fights to deny. Turkish foreign and economic policy today is based on these same lies,” he added.