ANKARA/BRUSSELS (Combined Sources)–A Brussels-based association of Turkish and Armenian businessmen has been told that even an Istanbul office for the non-governmental organization is off the table, it was revealed Wednesday. The Brussels-based European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy said the NGO hampered efforts to set as a precondition for EU membership, Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian Gencoide.
The request began with Brussels-based Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council’s request last year to establish an office in Istanbul. But, the Turkish Daily News learned that the request was rejected by the Interior Ministry in February.
Kaan Soyak, co-chairman of the Council, confirmed that he and three Turkish members of the organization applied last May to open the office as an effort to connect the Turkey-EU network in order to foster business opportunities.
"We have received no response for nine months and in February, the Istanbul Governor’s Office sent a letter rejecting our request without any justification," Soyak told the TDN Wednesday.
Until February, he continued, Turkish and Armenian members of the Council had the impression that the Interior Ministry would allow the opening of the office because at round-table discussions in the United States last November, Turkish diplomats heralded the government’s plans to allow the office. However, the letter from the Istanbul
Governor’s Office was in total contrast to expectations.
"As a result of the inquiry carried out by our ministry, permission is not granted for opening the agency of the mentioned organization in Turkey, and it is requested to end the activities of your functioning branches and agencies, if any, in our province and notify us of their addresses," noted the letter, the original copy of which was obtained by the TDN. The letter carries the signature of Fikret Kasapo?lu, deputy governor of Istanbul.
The Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council is a nongovernmental network of Turkish and Armenian business leaders working since 1997 for the restoration of normal relations between Turkey and Armenia and for the reopening of their common border.
"This means double-standards. I cannot understand why the Turkish government is opposing this," said Soyak, drawing attention to what he called a "paradox" that the government currently opposing the opening of a Turkish-Armenian office in Istanbul sought help from the same Council a few years ago to lobby against a controversial report proposed by the European Parliament. The report, which was eventually blocked in the parliament, required that Turkey recognize the Armenian genocide as a precondition to become a member of the European Union.
The European Armenian Federation confirmed Soyak’s assertion and added that the TABDC’s founding agenda included actively participating in efforts to deny the Armenian Genocide within European political circles. A letter authored by Soyak and the Armenian co-chariman Arsen Ghazarian urged European lawmakers that the discussion of the Armenian Genocide would hinder Turkish-Armenian relations.
The NGO’s activities and advocacy in Europe was being carried out by Nicola Tvitian, who personally lobbied Members of the European Parliament against efforts to recognize the Armenian Genocide and the pre-condition clause, which was spearheaded by the EAFJD.
Tavitian, who aside from being TABDC’s envoy in Europe, also serves on the European Executive Board of the AGBU as the Belgium representative. Tavitian was instrumental in thwarting EAFJD efforts for the inclusion of the Genocide pre-condition.