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Armenians debate ties with Turkey 27 décembre 2007

Posted by Acturca in Caucasus / Caucase, Turkey / Turquie.

The New Anatolian (Turkey)

25 December 2007, Ankara

The Armenian National Assembly on Thursday and Friday held two days of hearings on Turkey-Armenia relations, during which Armenian Revolutionary Federation Political Director claimed the border between Turkey and Armenia was drawn by the 1920 Sevres Treaty, to which the Ottoman Empire was a signatory and claimed the current border that was inherited from the Soviet Union should be renegotiated.

In testimony presented to the hearing, Giro Manoyan claimed that Armenia, as a member of several international organizations, has recognized the borders inherited from the Soviet Union, whereas the legal border is the one outlined by the internationally adopted 1920 Sevres Treaty.

He suggested that the National Assembly adopt legislation that prohibits the Armenian government from signing any treaty or document that does not recognize the boundaries set by the Sevres Treaty.

Manoyan also recommended that preliminary programs be implemented to engage the executive and legislative branches in the discussion of the aforementioned argument within the international community.

Manoyan also said the closure of the border by Turkey was key factor in addressing Turkey-Armenia relations, claiming that Turkey’s failure to recognize the so-called Armenian Genocide and adopt measures for proper reparations and restitutions also impeded the process of normalizing relations.

He also emphasized that the 16-year history of the Republic of Armenia has demonstrated that threats and short-term or temporary steps do not yield tangible results in this process.

The Parliamentary hearings were initiated by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Relations.

Participating in the hearings were the Foreign Relations Committee Chairman and ARF Supreme Body Representative Armen Rustamian, the Speaker of the National Assembly Tigran Torosyan, Vice Speaker and Presidential Candidate Vahan Hovannesian, the Director of Turkish Studies at the Armenian Oriental Institute Ruben Safrastian, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, EU Special Representative Peter Semneby, Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Hayk Demoyan, and a number of other politicians, foreign diplomats, and representatives from Armenia’s intelligentsia. A journalist from the Turkish Armenian Weekly Agos was also present.

Also invited to the two-day hearings were two dozen prominent Turks, including Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk. But none accepted the invitation.

Committee Chairman Rustamian outlined that the purpose of the hearings was to clarify the reasons of the current crisis in the Armenian-Turkish relations, to assess the nature of the existing problems and to make clear the opportunities and mechanisms of parliamentary diplomacy in the normalization of relations.

« This hearing is long over due, » he said. « There has been no issue that has had such significance in the history of our nation–for its past, present and future. It was clear that our parliament had to engage in such process to clarify its goals. I am expecting comprehensive, deep and interested discussions. »

Rustamian added that the lack of relations between the two countries exceeds the boundaries of the two states and have a great impact on contemporary geopolitical developments. The Parliament had to get involved in the process, he said.

During his speech at the hearing, Vice Speaker Hovannesian, a member of the ARF Bureau, stated that Armenian-Turkish relations have entered a dead-end.

« As long as Talaat Pasha, Enver and Jamal are seen as national heroes in Turkey, « nothing will change, » he added.

He claimed Turkey is run by a totalitarian regime and said Armenia cannot cooperate with a dictatorship.

« Like a dictatorship, Turkey tries to control not just the present, but also the past, he claimed. He claimed Turkey has blocked serious investigations into the Armenian Genocide claims.

The parliamentary hearings must lead to a consensus on what Armenia expects from Turkey, Hovannesian stated. The hearings must lay out what Armenia considers to be proper reparations and retributions and the Turkish Parliament should be informed about it, he added.

Hovannesian added that reforms in Turkey are being made in a distorted fashion. Turkey’s admission in the EU will be a defeat, he claimed. « Turkey will not adopt European values. Instead, Europe will end up adopting Turkish values, which are completely alien to the EU. »

Foreign Minister Oskanian said Turkey’s precondition that Armenia must abandon genocide recognition is inadmissible for Armenia.

« Turkey wants fulfillment of its preconditions first and only then establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of the border, » he said during his address to the committee. « Show me a European state which kept borders closed because of problems with neighbors. »

Oskanian said, Turkey’s entry to the EU « would be good for us in the political, economic and moral senses. » But he made it clear that Armenia believes it should happen only after Ankara drops its preconditions for establishing diplomatic relations with Yerevan and opening the Turkish-Armenian border. He said his government is worried that the EU will be more lenient towards the Turks than it was towards the former Communist states of Eastern Europe.

« Our concern is whether the EU will be as fair and demanding as it was towards other [nations seeking EU membership] or will take a political decision on Turkey’s membership for other considerations, » he said. « The international community rates opening of the border as the primary condition. Show me a European state which kept borders closed because of problems with neighbors, » the Minister said.

« Any country would want its neighbor to be predictable and act within the framework of a clear value system, » said Parliament Speaker Torosian, who is also a leading member of Sarkisian’s Republican Party. But he rejected Turkish demands that the Armenian Diaspora stop campaigning for international recognition of the Armenian genocide and Turkey’s compliance with EU standards.

While the EU stands for an unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, it has not included the issue on the agenda of its accession talks with Ankara.

Peter Semneby, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, avoided any criticism of the Turkish policy on Armenia as he spoke during the hearings. He said instead that Yerevan should not be worried about a growing Turkish presence in the region.

« It’s in Armenia’s interests that Turkey plays a larger role in the South Caucasus and that it gets a stake in the well being of the whole region, » Semneby said.

Torosian, however voiced his concern that Turkey’s decision to not participate in the discussions would not contribute to dialogue.


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