ISTANBUL (Marmara)–Turkish State Minister Hayati Yazici held a town-hall-style meeting with Armenian community members Tuesday to discuss the issue of minority assets. The meeting was presided over by the chairman of the Patriarchate Religious Council, Archbishop Aram Ateshian.
Following opening remarks by Jaqueline Ermen, the State Minister began his briefing by saying that the government had never discriminated against fellow citizens and other religions, adding that since 2002 significant changes had transformed Turkey into an important entity in the international community.
Yazici conceded that a 1926 law on minority assets created confusion, as well as obstacles that made the sales and refurbishing of properties almost impossible.
The minister said that the current government wanted to simplify the process and currently will allow collection of donations from outside the country to be applied to such assets, as long as they are transferred through banks and other financial institutions.
During a question and answer period, community members expressed frustration at the government bureaucracy that prevents the much-needed renovation of properties, to which the minister provided assurances on the government’s behalf.
In his closing remarks, Arch. Ateshian thanked the minister, saying there are no two peoples that have co-existed with one another for such a long time as the Turks and the Armenia’s and expressed disappointment that in 1915 there was enmity between the two.
“It is true that very tragic incidents occurred and it is also true that such incidents should not be forgotten. We wish they didn’t happen. However, such issues should not prevent the two to co-exist and come together and address concerns,” said Arch. Ateshian.
“Today, more than 40,000 people from Armenia live in Turkey and although their residency permits have expired, the government is demonstrating latitude on the matter,” added the Archbishop.
Ateshian said while the government is pursuing avenues to address unresolved issues, it was important that other issues not arise simultaneously that could hinder progress, and as an example cited the “Sari Gelin” film which was mandated as part of the school curriculum.
“Such films create enmity and animosity among one another,” said Ateshian.