ANKARA (Armenpress)—Turkish President Abdullah Gul said he still has hopes for a normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia on Friday. Gul was speaking to an audience at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as he attended his son’s graduation ceremony, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reports.
Referring to Armenian-Turkish relations, he insisted that Ankara approaches neighboring Armenia “sincerely and open-heartedly.” As proof, Gul reminded that he was the first ever Turkish president to pay a historic visit to Armenia in 2008 upon a kind invitation by President Sarkisian. “There is still hope to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations,” said Abdullah Gul.
Referring to the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide he cited Prime Minister Erdogan’s message last month paying condolences to the grandchildren of the Armenians who lost their lives in 1915, but not acknowledging nor recognizing the events as a genocide, insisting that the massive human loss in which 1.5 million Armenians perished was a shared tragedy.
“The year 1915 is indeed the most painful and mournful year in the history of Anatolia. This is so for all the peoples of Anatolia and for many reasons. The tragedies of the First World War reflect our shared pain. To evaluate this period through a perspective of just memory is a humane and scholarly responsibility. To this end, we opened our archives to all researchers. Achieving progress is not an easy task. Strong reciprocal will, joint efforts and a good measure of mutual understanding are absolutely necessary,” said the Turkish President.
Upon Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s invitation on September 6, 2008, the Turkish President conducted a non-official visit to Yerevan. The Heads of the two states attended the Armenia vs. Turkey football match. A basis of “football diplomacy” was laid, which later developed into intentions of a normalization of relations. On October 10, 2009, two Armenian-Turkish Protocols were signed, which lawmakers in Turkey have refused to ratify.
Turkish Professor at Harvard Questions Gul on Gezi Park
Turkish President Abdullah Gul was answering questions from the audience after his speech when he faced a pointed question about police violence in Turkey on the anniversary of the Gezi Park protests.
“How do you sleep at night when people are dying in Turkey? Aren’t you ashamed to be at the head of such a state?” Dr. Emrah Altindis, a medical specialist at Harvard University, asked the president.
“Now you listen to me: no one would let you ask such kind of questions that easily,” Gul said in response.
“It’s the anniversary of the Gezi events,” Altindis said. “Last year, I and several Nobel-laureate colleagues published an article in the journal Science. We noted and protested the fact that the state of the Republic of Turkey, which you head, killed eight citizens, delivered head trauma to 90 of our people, was responsible for the loss of nine people’s eyes, and left thousands of people choking on gas,” the doctor said.
“But the violence in Turkey is continuing. Three women are killed every day, and four workers are murdered in workplace accidents [each day]. The army which you head killed 34 people in Roboski [in December 2011]. Are you not ashamed to head such a state?” Altindis continued.
“Don’t you see that your hands are dripping with blood? How can you tell lies to us here about democracy? How do you sleep at night? Your prime minister calls 14-year-old boys terrorists,” he said in reference to Berkin Elvan, one of those killed during the Gezi riots by police.
The doctor also pointedly noted that he would have received a beating had he had the temerity to pose such a question in Turkey.
“These sorts of events happen in other countries too,” Gul said in response. “The protests in Gezi Park began with cool-headed actions, but illegal organizations joined the fray when the initial incidents were not properly dealt with. This was of course very upsetting,” The Turkish President said, adding that not all the information Altindis mentioned was correct.