Touts Turkey’s Historical Commission at Columbia University
BY ALLEN YEKIKAN
In remarks during a conference at Columbia University entitled "Turkey’s Role in Shaping the Future" on Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Armenian Diaspora’s efforts to gain US recognition of the Armenian Genocide “cheap,” urging the future Obama administration to take into consideration Turkey’s “sensitivities” to “Armenian allegations” and prevent a “negative period” in relations that would follow official recognition of its crime against humanity.
The Turkish government’s position, echoed during various international visits in recent months, "makes it clear that the multi-million dollar Turkish lobby and threat apparatus is revving up its engine yet again to pressure the American government into not recognizing the Armenian Genocide," said Andrew Kzirian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee-Western Region.
Turkey has also become intensely focused on Sen. Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential election, he said, explaining that the Turkish press has been feverishly producing ‘news’ opposing US genocide recognition, depicting any attempt to correctly categorize the genocide as a death sentence to ‘budding’ Armenia-Turkey relations.
Kzirian noted that this is a troubling development, demonstrating that Turkey is hurrying to establish relations with Armenia, in large part, to prevent recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the United States.
According to the Turkish Prime Minister, Turkey-US relations underwent a ‘negative period’ as a result of ‘Armenian allegations’ of genocide in 2007. He added that this ‘negative period’ could be overcome, "through common political will and endeavors."
"Turkey and the United States experienced a negative period regarding terrorist attacks stemming from Northern Iraq and Armenian allegations regarding the 1915 incidents in 2007. However, this period could be overcome," Erdogan said, describing the campaign for US recognition of the Armenian Genocide as ‘not fair.’
"I hope the new U.S. administration would take into account Turkey’s efforts. It is not fair to make a judgment upon such cheap political lobbying," he said.
"I sincerely congratulate Barack Obama and his team who won the elections," Erdogan said. "Turkey and the United States are two allies that have very strong relations, supporting each oher for more than half a century.
Earlier this year, Erdogan bashed Sen. Obama, calling him "an amateur in politics" for issuing statemen’s on the Armenian Genocide.
Despite that, however, the Turkish Prime Minister was reported earlier this week to have requested a meeting with President Elect Obama in Washington Friday while on a visit to the White House to attend an Economic Summit at the invitation of President George W. Bush.
"Turkey is resolved to maintain multilateral and close cooperation with the new U.S. administration led by Mr. Obama. Naturally, we particularly expect the new U.S. administration to take into consideration Turkey’s sensitivities on matters which have vital importance," Erdogan said, lining regional peace and security to US complicity toward Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide.
The grassroots movement of Armenian Americans and human rights activists is based on the concerns of United States citizens–constituents that have contributed to the unique and democratic fabric of this free country by advocating that the US recognize the Armenian Genocide–and put an end to genocide everywhere, Kzirian noted. "Frankly, the real problem we face as Americans is that an external player – Turkey – hires multiple powerful lobbying and public relations firms – sometimes in an illegal manner as evidenced by the Vanity Fair piece on former House Speaker Denis Hastert and improper Turkish influence – to carry out denialist work in Washington, DC."
Using the opportunity to speak at the University, Erdogan also reiterated calls on Armenia to open its archives on the genocide for ‘study’ by a historical commission, a move widely seen as an attempt to bolster Turkish claims that a commission to investigate the events of 1915 is much more viable an option than the US recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
"We have opened our archives and Armenia’s should open their archives too. We have studied over 1 million documen’s so far," he said.
Turkey’s archives on the period, although ostensibly open, are under strict censorship, with scholars studying the genocide subject to close surveillance and intimidation by Turkey’s security services, according to academics who have attempted to research the Armenian Genocide in Turkey’s archives.
"Our offer is still on the table. Let’s leave it to historians," Erdogan said, adding that Turkey and Armenia’should abide by the final decision of historians following these studies.
"Erdogan’s tired refrain calling for a historical commission on the Armenian Genocide is universally dismissed as just one more tactic in Turkey’s long-standing campaign of genocide denial," said Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America. "The request is even more disingenuous, given Turkey’s Article 301 laws that make honest discourse of the Armenian Genocide a prosecutable offense in Turkey.
Earlier on Monday, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian described Turkey’s proposal to form a commission of historians to investigate the veracity of the Armenian Genocide as unnecessary.
"It [the commission] is absolutely not necessary. We do not think that anything can be achieved with it. We want to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries, open the borders without any preconditions; afterward, through an intergovernmental process, we can discuss all issues pertaining to the neighboring countries," Sarkisian said in an interview published Monday in the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily. "We do not consider the recognition of the Genocide by Turkey as a precondition to establish relations. We desire the latter, but not at any cost. In the past the European countries too have not established historical commissions in order to develop normal relations. Such an initiative could also mean an attempt to mislead the international public, especially when it is a years-long process."