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Ömer Engin LÜTEM, Retired Ambassador
24 December 2007 - ERAREN
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!à‡`="justify">The Chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Relations of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, Armen Rustamian, sent me an  invitation via e-mail to attend the parliamentary hearings organized under the heading “Armenian-Turkish Relations: Problems and Perspectives” held on 19-20 December. Although they do not engender immediate results, such hearings are essentially useful as they are conducive to aiding the parties involved gauge each other’s viewpoints. For this reason, I would have liked to have been able to take part in the said discussions. Unfortunately, I had to inform Rustamian that I would not be able to attend due to prior engagements.

As gathered from the press, 20 or so Turks were invited to attend the hearings. Among them were personalities such as Taner Akcam, Fatma Muge Gokcek and Halil Berktay who fully espouse and have taken it upon themselves to win others over to Armenian views; people such as Orhan Pamuk and Baskin Oran who adhere to views that fall fairly in line with the Armenian stance; and individuals such as Can Paker who approach the subject matter from the perspective of the European Union.  Apart from myself, in order to voice the “Turkish standpoint”, Turkish Historical Society President Yusuf Halacoglu, and International Strategic Research Institute Director Sedat Laciner were invited to attend. Most likely Patriarch Mutafian was called upon to participate in order to represent Turkey’s Armenian community. As these hearings were organized by the National Assembly of Armenia, it would only have been appropriate if members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly were invited to attend as well. However, on this point, nothing surfaced in the press.

All Turks invited notified how they would not be able to attend the hearings. No doubt this is a result of the hearings corresponding with a religious holiday and a result of the invitations having been made so late, and hence due to those in question having prior engagements. Without touching upon this organizational flaw, Arman Rustamian alleged that those invited did not participate because the Turkish government was opposed to the hearings. No doubt, the person in question does not know Turkey very well. In present day Turkey, there is no official authority which can or would make such a demand, let alone a suggestion to this end. No official spoke to me about these parliamentary hearings and I am sure this follows suit for those others who were invited from Turkey. If this were the case, this surely would be covered by the press.

Consequently, in the absence of the invited Turks,  save for Peter Semnebi, special representative of the EU for South Caucasus, it appears that only Armenians (including Foregin Minister Oskanian) spoke during the hearings. Apart from a few strong criticisms, it seems that nothing new was voiced.

As cited above, the importance of such hearings rests in generating greater understanding concerning the views and standpoints of the parties concerned. Looked at from this perspective, it would be worthwhile if the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s concerned commissions were to organize a similar meeting in the coming months.

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