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Interview with Ambassador (R) Ömer Engin Lütem in Cumhuriyet Newspaper (17 March 2002)

Review of ARMENIAN STUDIES, Number 1, Volume 1 - 2002

 .‰à€?ğ="justify">Cumhuriyet daily discussed the Armenian problem with the Director of the Institute for Armenian Research, Ambassador (R) Ömer Lütem* *

I believe that one of the major problems that Turkey faces is the so-called Armenian genocide issue which is continuously repeated and brought to table. This deeply upsetting issue was once again broached in the Caucasus Report of the Swedish member of the European Parliament, Per Qahrton. “What does Per Gahrton have to do with the alleged Armenian genocide?” you may ask yourself. The said politician was ffirst a member of the Liberal Party, he later transferred to the Qreen Party where he was even against the EU membership of Sweden. Gahrton, recently also a writer of detective novels apparently sees the alleged genocide through the eyes of Hercules Poirot. While Western politicians continue to delve in the issue the Ankara based Institute for Armenian Research organized in Istanbul an international symposium on the occasion of the anniversary of the assasination of Talat Pasha. We talked to Ambassador (Rtd.) Ömer Lütem about the aims of this symposium and the alleged genocide which we constantly witness being pushed to the forefflont of the agenda.

- Although it is widely known that during the First World War all parties were involved in fighting and that Armenian Hinchak and Dashnaks were being used by Russia. why, in your opinion, are these realities disregarded and allegations of a systematic genocide continuously brought up nearly a century later?

- That is a very good question. The Armenians form a very large diaspora. In my opinion the root of the matter can be explained in the following way: Everyone says that great injustice was done to the Armenians in the First World War and they believe that they are now taking revenge. The idea of vengeance may be correct here but as you mentioned, roughly a century has passed over these events. Now can there still be talk of revenge after all this time? One may ask “what kind of hatred is this?” In fact there are other reasons behind.

- What could be these reasons?

- These reasons are not publicly discussed, nor are they written about openly. Yet if one pays close attention they can be detected between the lines: the Armenians in France are becoming increasingly more French, those in the USA are becoming increasingly more American. These people are loosing their Armenian identities after a while. There exist groups which are very disturbed by the Armenians loosing their ethnical identity. The first one that comes to mind is the Armenian Church.... The Armenian Church in the USA, France and other countries. Other groups are the Armenian political parties, foundations and cultural organizations. The leaders of these institutions are well aware that once the Armenians are integrated into the societies in which they live, the reason for the existence of the said organizations will also cease to exist. There will be no need for an Armenian Church where there is no Armenian population. Therefore the only way of maintaining their reason d’etre is for the Armenians there to be fully aware of their Armenian identity.

- What do they do to maintain their Armenian identity in the face of the tendency to assimilate?

- To depict the events of the First World War as if they were a genocide and a tragic disaster and thus unite the people around this. In other words, to create a common enemy to be united against. As you know hatred makes people united very easily but it is far more difficult to unite them through a common good. The factor which creates the consciousness of being Armenian in the Armenian diaspora is the claims of genocide. As soon as these allegations are dropped, we will witness complete assimilation. Local Armenian churches will be closed, local Dashnak parties will cease to exist and large foundations will become ineffective. The interesting thing is that they claim they do not hate anybody.. .They say, “we want historical justice to be served”. Words like historical justice sound good yet they are not concepts that hold any legal validity. Events take place in history, they end and new arrangements are created accordingly. History has always been like this. The Ottoman, Austro-hungarian and Russian Empires were all dismantled following the First World War. New arrangements were made after this and new maps were drawn accordingly. The rest is no longer significant from a political perspective because a new political order had been created. Therefore, the Armenians are in no position to make any historical demands. If we would be to deal with 1915 we would see that the historical reorganization for this period was made in 1918 and in 1923 for Turkey. A second war followed and led to a reorganization which occurred in the region in 1945-1946. Yet another political reorganization took place in 1991-1992. There is no point in returning to 1915 today and making political demands. I was in Brussels before the Southern Caucasus Report of Per Oahrton was published. I talked about the matter to some members of the European Parliament. I asked the following question: “Would you politically accept an allegation about 1915?” None of them said that they would. Yet the Armenians still believe that this can be done, that a return to that date is possible, that they can reverse the clock.

- It is known that an ordinary citizen living in Armenia has little to do with all this. Is not it the Armenians of the diaspora and the Armenian authorities who keep the allegations on the agenda?

- As I just stated, their very existence depends on it. A part of the Armenian population reacts negatively to this situation. The political parties, foundations and churches in the diaspora are continuously brainwashing people. They are now in the fourth generation after 1915. Let us analyze the hatred and antagonism towards Turks, in line with the generations. Under normal circumstances a psychological and sociological analysis should yield the result that the first generation Armenians are the ones who are supposed to hate the Turks most. They are the ones who lived through war and experienced the suffering. The second generation is composed of their children. They must have emotions that are weaker than the first generation, yet still quite strong on the overall. The third generation should have far weaker emotions because practically they do not know anyone from the first generation that had suffered.

- Does the third and fourth generations have an ill-psychology to be still living in the 1910s?

Yes. That would be the finding of a normal psychological and sociological analysis. For them it is the exact opposite of what one would expect to find; the third and fourth generations bear the greatest hatred against the Turks. The first and second generations have, weaker feelings of hatred. The Armenian Church, political parties and other diaspora organizations brainwashed the third and fourth generations into hating the Turks. People that did not witness the events react in the worst way when they hear the word “Turk”. This can only be seen as a psychological case. But one cannot acquire this condition by himself, it must be injected by someone else. Someone is constantly feeding them with hate. That is the most frightening part of the matter. Armenian intellectuals are also aware of the situation but they are scared of confessing it. Some say that the situation arises from “the traumatic events that have taken place”. What traumatic events? Fictitious trauma if I may say so. The Armenians who murdered the Turkish diplomats were all from the third generation. They were persons who had never witnessed the events whatsoever. We can summarize the whole issue in the following way: This is a way certain interest groups have chosen to maintain their existence. In other words some interest groups are abusing the Armenians in the diaspora. This is what lies at the root of these developments. Let’s put it this way; if there was no Armenian society in the USA there would be no Apolostic Gregorian priests, they would have to go to Echmiazin, but would they ever? Nobody would leave the USA to return to Armenia in its current condition.

- Recently a Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission was formed. On the Armenian side there were Armenians who were not citizens of Armenia. What do you think could be the idea behind inviting Armenians who are not citizens of Armenia to the Commission?

- That was an idea conjured up so that the entire Armenian people would be represented. But, the Armenians of Armenia have no such feelings or do not have the same mentality. You can’t say that they are very friendly towards Turkey but they live their daily life. As such they do not face the constant story of the genocide and therefore they have far weaker negative sentiments towards Turkey and the Turks.

- The Institute for Armenian Research which operates under the Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies decided to organize a symposium on the anniversary of the assassination of Talat Pasha. How did this idea come about?

- We came upon this idea some time ago. But I believe the terrorist attacks of September 11 lie at the root of this initiative. This event caused the world once again to focus on terror. Then, one day as we were talking among each other we thought of the date when Talat Pasha was murdered. We are bringing together people from all over the world who studied this matter. Turkish Minister of Culture expressed a great interest in a symposium on Talat Pasha and terror. We would not have achieved such a high level of participation had he not given his assistance.

- Why do you think attacks of Armenian terror organizations that targeted Turkish diplomats in particular were initiated in 1973?

- The first attack took place in 1973 when an Armenian named Yanikyan killed the Turkish Council General in Los Angeles, Mehmet Baydar and his deputy Bahad?r Demir. Yet this was not an act of organized terror. In fact Yanikyan was known to be mentally unstable. However, his acts found such wide support among radical Armenian political circles that came under the impression that they could further their cause by killing Turkish diplomats. Until that day Armenian claims had found little interest in the world. When the Yanikyan incident was widely covered by the world media the extremist Armenian circles came to believe that they had discovered a window of opportunity. In their opinion, killing Turkish diplomats would make their cause more popular in the international press. At this stage there is an important point that must be made: Yanikyan committed murders in 1973 and Turkey intervened militarily in the Cyprus problem in 1974. The Cyprus military operation meant that Greece would start opposing Turkey in the strongest way possible. It was during this period that the Armenians received a great deal of support from Greece. However, Greece has never acknowledged this publicly.

- Do you believe that it was a coincidence that the Armenian murders of Turks reached their peak when Turkey made a military operation in Cyprus?

- Not necessarily. Anyway, in those days the Armenian diaspora found a new ally in Greece. Greece supplied them with significant aid but never admitted this. Almost all murders of Turkish diplomats were conducted in a professional manner, meaning they were well planned in advance, not that someone was upset and shot the other on the spur of the moment.

- How did the murders by the Armenian terror organization of ASALA suddenly stop?

- These murders continued for 11 years. 34 Turkish diplomats were killed in this time-span. 4 were Ambassadors, 4 Consul Generals and one Military Attaché. Terrorism is blind. It was used as a means to reach political aims. The violence spins out of control after some time. This is the nature of terror all over the world and it was no different for Armenian terror. The turning point was the massacre at Orly, France. Of those killed there as a result of the explosion, two were Turks and six foreigners. The foreign press which did not support Armenian terror but did not openly condemn it either took a clearly negative attitude when it saw that the terror had begun to target non-Turks as well. Not only had the Armenians erred in their target, but also their policy became a boomerang this time. Instead of being able to publicize their cause they began to draw criticism. Their financial aid was cut off. Some times later it was all over. Later Armenians tried hard to ensure that this period would not be remembered or talked about because this terror era is something to be ashamed of and a disgrace for the Armenians.

- Did not these Armenian terrorists consider the difficult position they were placing the Armenians living in Turkey into while they were killing all those people with the aim of publicizing their cause?

- They paid absolutely no attention to the Armenians living in Turkey. I was in Turkey during those years. I saw clearly that the Armenians living in Turkey had serious problems, they were even scared. I also would like to stress this; whenever the Armenian problem escalates the moral price is paid by the Armenians living in Turkey.

- Why do you think resolutions that recognize the Armenian genocide are being tried to brought to the agenda of the parliaments of Western countries in recent years?

- The answer of this question is very complex. It varies according to each country and each incident. There are 11 countries that recognize the Armenian genocide. Here you will find two types of countries. In the first type the most important reason is the Armenian diaspora that lives in that country. This is the case in approximately 9 of the 11 countries. In the remaining two-Greece and Southern Cyprus- the situation is different. It is not possible to say that the Armenians living there have any significant power. These countries have recognized the genocide only because of their traditional animosity towards Turks.

- How about the situation in the European Parliament case?

- As far as I can see there is an overt or even secret coalition of those who do not want Turkey to integrate into the EU at all or those who do not want Turkey to become an EU member now. The Armenian matter seems to be a part of the negative atmosphere against Turkey in this forum. When a resolution on the Armenian matter is brought the table it is not supported due to its content but rather because it is a part of the general anti-Turkey campaign. I would like to draw your attention to an important point. The resolutions adopted in both National Parliaments and in the European Parliament are only recommendatory, meaning they lack any enforcement mechanism. This, however, does not mean that they are unimportant. They are quite boring

- Don’t these resolutions reflect the anti-Turkish aims and mentality?

Certainly, they do so. The image of Turkey has been deteriorating since the 1980’s- even the 1970’s — for a number of reasons. That is bad enough. When you add genocide which is the worst crime committed against humanity on top to all this you really hit rock bottom on the image scale. Such an image may have a very negative effect on our claim to EU membership than our economic problems do. I think that is where the importance of the resolutions taken against us come into play. Our image which is not too bright anyway is further tarnished. The resolutions may not have any sanctions attached to them but they do cause harm anyway. They harm us also in the following way: When such decisions are taken Turkey rejects them. But the relations with the states whose parliament adopts these resolutions are also damaged, as has been the case with France. A year has gone by since the French Parliament adopted a Law concerning the Armenian “genocide” and things still have not settled between the two countries. I receive negative responses when I express this view. I am told that the French also suffer from the consequences of the souring of bilateral relations. Surely this has important effects on the French. But we must know that this situation also caused significant impacts on Turkey. France is a country that supports the accession of Turkey to the EU. French policy on the Eastern Mediterranean and the views of Turkey on the same topic overlap. France is a very important partner in the military and technical fields. When our relations are damaged both states suffer. Therefore, although these resolutions have no enforcement attached to them they do cause serious harm to bilateral relations.

- As far as I know an American researcher and writer called Sam Weems has written a book in response to the allegations of genocide. I was told that his arguments against the genocide are parallel to the arguments of Turkey. Could you give us some more information on this?

- Sure. The name of the book is “Armenia: A Great Deception”. Sam Weems conducted extensive research into many documents. However I have not seen the book yet. It will be published in the USA on April 6th by St. John’s Press. The book has already caused great protests from the Armenians because until now there were only books written by Armenians, only their views were voiced. That is why this new book is being received with great interest.

- For what reason did Sam Weems decide to write a book on this issue?

- Because he believed that a grave injustice is being done to the Turks. He probably is of the opinion that Turkey and the Turks are unable to make themselves heard properly.

Portrait - Ömer Lütem

Mr. Lütem completed his secondary school at the Galatasaray High School and was later graduated from the faculty of Political Sciences, the University of Ankara. He entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1957 and served in different posts. He was appointed as ambassador to Soffia in 1981 and remained there until 1989. This 6 year-period witnessed the forced name changing campaign directed at the Turkish minority of Bulgaria by the communist regime in Soffia. He returned to Ankara shortly before the end of the ordeal. The first volume of his memoirs of the period was published. He served as Deputy Undersecretary for a period in Ankara. He was posted as Ambassador to the Vatican and held his last official position as Permanent Representative of Turkey to UNESCO. He retired in 1998. Mr. Lütem first directed the Balkans division of the Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies (ASAM). He later became the director of the Institute for Armenian Research which was founded as a branch of ASAM a year ago.

* Cumhuriyet Newspaper -
- Review of ARMENIAN STUDIES, Number 1, Volume 1 - 2002
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