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Ömer Engin LÜTEM, Retired Ambassador
13 December 2006 - ?KSAREN
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!ថ="justify">(The continuation of our article on the interview by New Anatolian newspaper columnist Nursun Erel with Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanian)

Due to the need to resolve the issue relating to genocide allegations as soon as possible, in April 2005  Turkey proposed to Armenia that  this matter  be analyzed by historians and other experts, but Armenia did not accept this proposal. This time Turkey has begun inquiring into the possibilities of resolving this issue by deferring it to a mechanism of international justice. However, the stance of the Armenian Foreign Minister with respect to resorting to international justice has also been negative. Although it may appear that this reluctance stems from the disinclination to debate the ‘reality of the genocide’, it is the case that the Armenians are apprehensive about not being able prove the existence of genocide before a judicial body.

Oskanian has described the proposal for establishing a joint commission of historians as a smokescreen for Europeans to think that Turkey has taken a positive step forward on this matter. The Foreign Minister  has based this opinion of his on three grounds.

The first reason advanced by Oskanian is that such a commission is already existent and that Turkish, Armenian and foreign scholars have debated and declared their position vis a vis this issue. These scholars wrote a letter to Prime Minister Erdogan and stated that the issue has been studied, that the conclusion is clearly genocide and that there is no need for further discussion.

On this matter Oskanian is displaying a degree of confusion. No commission bringing together Turkish, Armenian and other scholars has been set up. Although negotiations were carried out in Vienna between members of the Turkish Historical Society and an Armenian historian of Austrian citizenship, amongst whom an exchange of documents was carried out, this group has not been able to continue their work.

On the 16th of April 2005, The International Association for Genocide Scholars, by way of letter sent to Prime Minister Erdogan, stated that the existence of the Armenian “genocide” was the general view not only of Armenian but also of other scholars examining this issue. However, the Institution in question does not comprise all nor even the majority of scholars specializing in this area of study. Furthermore, not a single Turkish scholar that is a member of this Institution is known. Also, it is clear that for a party siding with the allegation of the existence of  the Armenian “genocide”, to send  a letter to his Prime Minister crosses the line between scholarly and political action.

The second ground set forth by Oskanian is based on article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The Foregin Minister has expressed that since this article penalizes those stating that genocide occurred, it is not possible for Turkish scholars participating in a joint historical commission to accept that the events of 1915 amount to genocide or even discuss this issue for they may be punished.

These statements on the part of the Armenian Foreign Minister constitutes a gross exaggeration. First of all it should be noted that no mention of the word “genocide” is made in the pertinent article. This article deals with penalizing the act of degrading Turkishness, the Turkish Republic, and the State’s institutions and organs. If a prosecutor, on account of a written complaint or his own authority, interprets mention of the genocide as degrading Turkishness he may initiate a lawsuit. However, there is no one in Turkey who has been convicted due to accepting the Armenian “genocide”. Furthermore, there are publishing houses in Turkey which freely publish books of authors claiming that the Armenian genocide took place.

The third ground set forth by the Armenian Foreign Minister is based on the contention that establishing a joint commission of historians does not appear possible when the border between the two countries remains closed. There is, however, no relationship between the two. That Turkey’s border with Armenia is closed does not translate into how Armenians are forbidden from entering Turkey. As such, there are approximately 70,000 individuals of Armenian origion working in Turkey and these individuals go back and forth between the countries via airway or other border Gates.

In short, the grounds set forth by the Armenian Foreign Minister as to why he is against the formation of a joint commission of historians are of no validity. The real reason stems from the reluctance on  the part of the  Armenians to discuss and analyze this issue believing that the matter has been resolved in their favor.

(To be continued…)

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