YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’stands no chance of normalizing its relations with Turkey if it continues to lobby for an international recognition of the 1915 deaths of more than million Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire as genocide–a former Turkish foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Ambassador Ilter Turkmen’said official Yerevan’s support for a genocide recognition bill considered by a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives will "exacerbate" the already strained rapport with Turkey. "There is a feeling in Turkey that this initiative in the House has gained momentum after some official statemen’s by Armenian leaders–especially by President Kocharian at the United Nations [summit earlier this month]," Turkmen told RFE/RL. He spoke on the sidelines of an international conference on prospects for regional peace cooperation held in Yerevan by the Armenian Center for National and International Studies–a local independent think-tank. A retired career diplomat–Turkmen headed the Turkish foreign ministry between 1982 and 1984 and currently works as adjunct professor at Istanbul’s Galatasaray University.
"If Armenia persists with trying to have Turkey condemned by the international public opinion there will be no way out," he said. The authorities in Ankara warned of a major deterioration in close US-Turkish relationship following last week’s approval by a House subcommittee of a draft resolution amounting to an official American recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The full House International Relations Committee was due to discuss the bill on Thursday.
Turkmen’stressed that the Turks will never agree to recognizing the mass killings as "genocide" because that will go against their "national consciousness."You are convinced that this had happened–whereas in Turkey people are convinced that something else had happened," he went on. "It’s very difficult to come to a clear judgement of history. History is written differently in different countries."
"History always has a positive aspect. So why don’t we don’t work on the positive aspect. We have so many things in common," Turkmen argued–pointing to the fact that "Armenia’s contributed immensely to the Ottoman Empire." Armenian officials believe that a full reconciliation is impossible without the two peoples addressing their troubled past. Turkmen’said joint studies of the bloodiest period of Ottoman history are welcome as long as they "do not come to a verdict."You can discuss the past but with the aim of achieving a reconciliation."
Armenia’s previous leadership preferred not to raise the genocide issue in its dealings with Turkey. Critics say that strategy did not pay off–with Ankara continuing to make the normalization of bilateral ties conditional on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But Turkmen countered that Turkish-Armenian relations can not be considered non-existent. "I came here yesterday from Istanbul on board an Armenian Airlines plane. It was full of people–including businessmen–both Turkish and Armenian. There is a considerable amount of trade going on between us," he said.
Asked whether there is any chance of Turkey establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia before a Karabakh settlement–the ex-minister replied: "It depends on what you will do with the Azeris."I don’t know if the [Turkish] government will consider having a more structured relationship with Armenia before a settlement in Karabakh. It also depends on the Azeris. We have taken a [pro-Azerbaijani] position. It is very difficult to change a position."