Saturday, September 30, 2006

‘Genocide’ tension with France grows

Sunday, October 1, 2006
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Turkish Daily News with AFP

Asked at a press conference if Turkey should recognize the 1915-1917 massacre at the hands of Ottoman Turks Armenians as genocide, he replies: 'Honestly, I believe so'

ANKARA/YEREVAN- Relations between Ankara and Paris suffered a serious blow on Saturday with the statement by French President Jacques Chirac declaring on a visit to Armenia that Turkey should recognize the massacre of Armenians during World War I as “genocide” before its possible accession to the European Union.

Asked at a press conference if Turkey should recognize the 1915-1917 massacre at the hands of Ottoman Turks Armenians as genocide, he replied: "Honestly, I believe so."

"All countries grow up acknowledging their dramas and their errors," said Chirac, who is on a two-day visit to Armenia.

The development came amid intense efforts by Turkey to avoid the French National Assembly adopt a resolution recognizing the killings of Armenians in the first quarter of last century as a “genocide.” The vote is scheduled for Oct. 12.

Yet diplomatic sources at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, speaking to the Turkish Daily News, underlined the importance Turkey attributes to bilateral relations with France and expressed concern that adoption of such a controversial bill would harm relations between the two peoples as well as French businessmen doing business in and with Turkey.

“Even if this bill is adopted, it is not possible for Turkey to accept such a theory,” the same sources said, while noting that Ankara has been contacting French officials at every level to prevent the bill's adoption.

Turkish officials drew attention to the fact that Armenia, with its aim of having genocide accusations against Turkey accepted by third-party countries, is trying to damage bilateral relations between Turkey and other countries to secure an advantage in the political arena.

“The Armenian lobby should abandon backstage games and should come up with concrete arguments supported by historical facts,” the diplomatic sources said, referring to Ankara's proposal last year to establish a joint committee of Turkish and Armenian experts to study allegations of an Armenian genocide in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.

Earlier this month, during talks with his French counterpart, Philippe Douste-Blazy, as part of a visit to France, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül suggested that France participate in such a body.

Gül said at the time that other countries, including France, could join the proposed committee of Turkish and Armenian academics to study the allegations.

While Ankara refrained Saturday from issuing a statement condemning the development, senior Turkish officials talking to the TDN said Chirac's remarks were “totally unacceptable” and will likely have a serious impact on economic and political relations between Turkey and France.

On Saturday Chirac, accompanied by his wife Bernadette, attended a solemn ceremony at Armenia's monument to the 1915-1917 massacres of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks. Chirac is on the first ever visit of a French president to the impoverished Caucasus nation, which is at odds with its Turkic neighbors Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Chirac placed flowers at the towering Tsitsernakaberd monument where he was greeted by an honor guard playing mournful music before being taken on a tour of the so-called "Genocide Museum." France, which has 400,000 citizens of Armenian descent, officially recognized the World War I-era events as “genocide” in 2001, putting a strain on its relations with European Union aspirant and fellow NATO member Turkey.

Many countries, including the United States and Israel, have so far refused to label the massacres as genocide. Ankara argues that 300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in an internal conflict sparked by attempts by Armenians to win independence for eastern Anatolia and secure assistance for their bid from Russia -- Turkey's age-old nemesis.

Armenia is also locked in a stalemate with Azerbaijan over the ethnic-Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh, which it gained control of in an early 1990s war but which is still internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Chirac: Turkey Should Use Term Genocide

Source: Associated Press

French President Jacques Chirac urged Turkey on Saturday to acknowledge the mass killings of Armenians in the early 20th century as genocide.

Armenians say that as many as 1.5 million of their ancestors were killed in 1915-1923 in an organized campaign to force them out of eastern Turkey and have pushed for recognition around the world of the killings as genocide.

Turkey acknowledges that large numbers of Armenians died, but says the overall figure is inflated and that the deaths occurred in the civil unrest during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. But Ankara is facing increasing pressure to fully acknowledge the killings, particularly as it seeks membership in the European Union.

"Should Turkey recognize the genocide of Armenia to join the European Union?" Chirac asked, echoing a question posed by a reporter at a joint news conference with Armenian President Robert Kocharian. "Honestly, I believe so. Each country grows by acknowledging its dramas and errors of the past."

Chirac's comments went further than in the past, using the word genocide directly for the first time. In 2004, Chirac said Turkey should recognize the killings and make "an effort at memory" to join the EU. France's parliament has officially recognized the killings as genocide.

Chirac has personally supported Turkey's entry into the 25-nation EU, though many French have grave misgivings, fearing an influx of cheap labor and questioning Turkey's human rights record.

Earlier Saturday, Chirac and his wife, Bernadette, laid a wreath at the Memorial to the Victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey and visited the Genocide Museum and Institute. Chirac wrote a single world in the guestbook: "Remember."

Chirac was paying the first visit by a French president to the former Soviet republic of Armenia since in gained independence. France has some 400,000 citizens of Armenian origin, and plans several events in the coming year linked to Armenian culture and history.

"Can one say that Germany, which has deeply acknowledged the Holocaust, has as a result lost credit? It has grown," Chirac said, urging Turkey to take inspiration from that and other examples.

Kocharian thanked France for giving "the force of law" to recognition of the killings as genocide.

Chirac and Kocharian then participated in the opening ceremony for French Republic Square in the center of Yerevan and attended a concert by Charles Aznavour, a famous French singer of Armenian origin.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



“Even we know all these, it is still very painful,” Armen Petrosyan, expert in Armenianology said after his tour at the Genocide Museum. The expert said he was in Armenia 20 years ago but he is at the memorial to the genocide victims for the first time. “This place and these memories make very heavy impressions,” he said.

Yuri Jorkaef, famous football player, also visits the memorial for the first time. “I think it is important for the unification of Armenians,” the footballer said, also saying that the fire should never go down. “I expect that as some countries in the world, including France, Turkey will also recognize the Armenian genocide one day,” Jorkaef told reporters.

Memorial stones will be put at the monument to pay gratitude to those countries which recognize the Armenian genocide. Today, the first stone was installed with a notice, “France publicly recognizes the Armenian Genocide.” /

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Chirac calls on Turkey to "recognize its past" in connection with mass killings of Armenians

September 30, 2006
International herald Tribune
Source: The Associated Press

YEREVAN, Armenia French President Jacques Chirac called on Turkey on Saturday to "recognize its past" in connection with the mass killings of Armenians in the early 20th century.

"Turkey should acknowledge the mistakes of its past," Chirac said at a joint news conference with Armenian President Robert Kocharian. "I believe that every country, in accordance with its level of development, should acknowledge its tragic moments and the mistakes of the past."

A reporter had asked Chirac whether Turkey should have to recognize the killings as genocide before being admitted to the European Union.

Armenians say that as many as 1.5 million of their ancestors were killed in 1915-1923 in an organized campaign and have pushed for recognition of the killings as genocide around the world. Turkey rejects the claim that a mass evacuation and related deaths of Armenians was genocide and says the death toll is inflated.

France's parliament has officially recognized the killings as genocide, and Chirac said in 2004 that Turkey would have to agree on that point if it wanted to become an EU member.

YEREVAN, Armenia French President Jacques Chirac called on Turkey on Saturday to "recognize its past" in connection with the mass killings of Armenians in the early 20th century.

"Turkey should acknowledge the mistakes of its past," Chirac said at a joint news conference with Armenian President Robert Kocharian. "I believe that every country, in accordance with its level of development, should acknowledge its tragic moments and the mistakes of the past."

A reporter had asked Chirac whether Turkey should have to recognize the killings as genocide before being admitted to the European Union.

Armenians say that as many as 1.5 million of their ancestors were killed in 1915-1923 in an organized campaign and have pushed for recognition of the killings as genocide around the world. Turkey rejects the claim that a mass evacuation and related deaths of Armenians was genocide and says the death toll is inflated.

France's parliament has officially recognized the killings as genocide, and Chirac said in 2004 that Turkey would have to agree on that point if it wanted to become an EU member.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Admit genocide before joining EU, Chirac tells Turkey


by Simon Ostrovsky and Mariam Haroutunian

YEREVAN - French President Jacques Chirac on Saturday urged Turkey to recognize World War I-era massacres of Armenians as genocide if it wants to join the European Union, speaking during a visit to the Armenian capital.

In comments that are likely to irritate Ankara and put a further strain on its relations with France, Chirac told a news conference Turkey needed to face up to its Ottoman past in response to a question on the nation's EU ambitions.

Asked if he thought Turkey should recognize the 1915-1917 massacres as genocide before it joins the EU, the French president replied: "Honestly, I believe so."

"All countries grow up acknowledging their dramas and their errors," said Chirac, who is on a two-day visit to Armenia, where he has paid homage to Yerevan's "genocide" memorial and attended the inauguration of a "France Square" in central Yerevan.

Until now, France had refused to make a direct link between the genocide issue and Turkey's EU membership bid. The bloc has not made it a condition of entry.

But a response to the same question by Chirac's Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian was markedly softer, reflecting Armenia's desire to mend ties with its neighbor and improve its struggling economy.

"We don't see any danger in this process," Kocharian said of Turkey's EU aspirations, "but we would like that our interests would be discussed in the process too," he added.

Kocharian said it would be in Armenia's interests to have a neighbor "with a value system that allows for free movement and open borders."

France, which has 400,000 citizens of Armenian descent, officially recognized the events as genocide in 2001, putting a strain on its relations with fellow NATO member Turkey.

A proposal by France's socialists to make genocide denial a crime punishable by a year in prison and a 45,000-euro fine has elicited further ire in Turkey, but Chirac said he did not support the proposal.

"France has fully recognized the tragedy of the genocide and all the rest is more like polemics than legislative reality," he said of the proposal.

Armenia has campaigned for Turkey to recognize the WWI massacres, in which it says 1.5 million Armenians died, as genocide.

But Turkey argues that that 300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in an internal conflict sparked by attempts by Armenians to win independence in eastern Anatolia.

Today's Armenia is in an unenviable geopolitical position.

Flanked to the south-west by historical foe Turkey, its eastern borders press up against Azerbaijan, with which Yerevan is still technically at war over the Nagorny Karabakh enclave.

As a result, its only access to the outside world is through Iran and Georgia.

But as relations between Russia and Georgia sour, exemplified by this week's Russian-spy row in Tbilisi, transporting Russian goods to Moscow's ally Armenia has become more difficult.

"Armenia is very interested in the normalization of Georgian-Russian relations because it directly effects our economy," Kocharian said.

Chirac, whose country makes up part of the so-called Minsk Group of mediators between Armenia and Azerbaijan, has tried to personally intervene in their conflict by meeting both presidents in Paris earlier this year.

A framework agreement on the resolution of the territorial dispute was widely hoped for during a Paris meeting between the two Caucasus presidents, however no visible progress was made.

Chirac defended the Minsk Group, which Azerbaijan has criticized, saying its experts "have done good work, of course in an infinitely complex situation."

The ethnic-Armenian enclave of Karabakh is within Azerbaijan's territory but Armenians currently control it as well as seven surrounding Azerbaijani regions.

Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by the war, in which some 25,000 people died, ending in a shaky 1994 cease-fire.

09/30/2006 12:27 GMT

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Friday, September 29, 2006


For Justice and Democracy
Avenue de la Renaissance 10
B-1000 Bruxelles
Tel: +32 (0)2 732 70 26
Tel/Fax : +32 (0)2 732 70 27

for immediate release
29 septembre 2006
Contact: Varténie ECHO
Tel/Fax : +32 (0)2 732 70 27


-- Eurlings: “there is no accession without an acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide” --

The European parliament adopted on Wednesday 27 September a resolution on “Turkey’s progress towards accession” by 429 votes in favour, 71 against and 125 abstentions. The report in a highly critical tone demonstrates the sharp degradation of relations between Turkey and the European Union and the unfavourable situation of the negotiation process.

As for the Armenian genocide, the European Parliament maintained the position by recalling that "although the recognition of the Armenian genocide as such does not formally constitute one of the Copenhagen criteria, it is essential that a country towards accession faces and recognizes its past". In fact, this was the only point underlined by the rapporteur, Mr. Eurlings who, at the end of the vote, emphasised by "Let’s be clear: even if the recognition of the Armenian genocide is not formally a condition of membership, Turkey cannot join the Union without recognizing its past”.

However, on this question, the European Parliament rejected by 320 votes against 283 and 40 abstentions paragraph 49 that had already been adopted by the Committee of Foreign Affairs and which places the recognition of the Armenian genocide as a precondition to accession.

“We deeply thank those who – among all groups – have done everything in order to maintain the formulation which constituted only a recall of the European parliament former positions” declared the chairperson of the European Armenian Federation, Hilda Tchoboian. “The rejection of this paragraph is purely linked to the current situation and was imposed by Turkey with the expedience of the chancelleries of the European Countries. We note however that the impact of this suppression was restrained by the declarations of the rapporteur on this very subject” continued Hilda Tchoboian.

In addition, the Federation regrets the lack of awareness which led the European Parliament – in line with the socialist group proposal – “to take note of Turkey’s proposal to establish a bilateral committee of experts which should be held under the auspices of the United Nations” in order to pronounce judgment on the Armenian genocide. The Federation reminds that the experts of the UN Sub-Committee on Human Rights have in 1985 already acknowledged without any ambiguity the Armenian genocide.

“The European parliament resolution is a real disavowal of the Turkey’s aggressive policy since it considers that the blockade of Armenia explicitly violates the conditions of membership of this country”, continued Hilda Tchoboian. “Now, we are waiting for the European executive to consider this issue with the same determination as the Cypriot issue, concluded Hilda Tchoboian.

The Federation notes with satisfaction that the Armenian genocide and the blockade forced by Turkey – as is the question of the Cyprus occupation and the capacity of the Union to absorb members constitute the core of the European preoccupations regarding Turkey’s controversial application.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Jane Fonda to Deliver Keynote Address at 2006 COAF 'Save a Generation' Awards Dinner

September 28, 2006 11:25 AM Eastern Time

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) is pleased to announce that Jane Fonda, Oscar®-winning actress and humanitarian, will deliver the keynote address at the annual “Save a Generation” awards dinner, to be held Friday, October 20, 2006, at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York. COAF will honor outstanding individual and corporate leaders, and celebrate the success of COAF’s unique formula for poverty alleviation through village revitalization, education, health care and development.

Emmy® and Tony® award winner Andrea Martin will serve as Master of Ceremonies and Ms. Fonda will appear along with honoree George Pagoumian, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Napco, LLP. In addition, COAF will recognize Pierre Michel Fattouche of VivaCell and Eduardo Eurnekian of Zvartnots International Airport and Tierras de Armenia as two organizational leaders fighting poverty in Armenia through long-term economic development.

Actress and humanitarian Jane Fonda has enjoyed tremendous success as a stage and screen actress in such well known films as Klute and Coming Home. Ms. Fonda now focuses her time on activism and social change – with much of her work devoted to the program she founded in 1995, the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (G-CAPP). She chairs this statewide effort to reduce the high rates of adolescent pregnancy in Georgia through community, youth and family development, sustainable economic development and legislative advocacy.

In 1994, Ms. Fonda was named Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund. She is also a member of the Women & Foreign Policy Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Grady Health System Board of Visitors, the Screen Actors Guild Advisory Board, the Advisory Board of the Native American Rights Fund, and sits on the V-Counsel of V-Day: Until the Violence Stops.

In May 2005, Random House published Ms. Fonda’s memoirs, My Life So Far, which secured a first-place position on The New York Times Bestseller list. That same spring Monster-in-Law, her first film in 15 years, also reached number one at the box office, making Ms. Fonda the first person to simultaneously have a number one book and number one movie.

About COAF

Founded in 2000, the Children of Armenia Fund is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization (501(c)(3)). COAF seeks to reverse the impoverished conditions affecting significant numbers of Armenia’s children by revitalizing Armenia’s villages and implementing projects that provide immediate and sustainable benefits to children and youth. For further information, please visit

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Genocide denial causes Dutch election upset

Radio Netherlands
by Andy Clark

It might seem a little strange but the Armenian genocide of 1915 has become an issue in the run up to the Dutch elections. The two leading parties in the opinion polls have kicked out prospective MPs because they deny that the genocide took place. The candidates, one from the opposition Labour Party and two from the biggest coalition party - the Christian Democrat CDA - are Dutch/Turkish politicians.

It made the headlines after questions were raised by the Armenian community in the Netherlands when the names of the candidates were made public on the party lists for the November elections, and a heated discussion soon followed.

Official policy
The candidates in question had clearly stated in the past that, in their view, the genocide of Armenians in Turkey in 1915 had not taken place. This view is contrary to the official policy of the Dutch government and of the parties themselves.

Tineke Huizinga is from the Christian Union - a small party in the parliament which introduced an initiative in 2004 saying that the government has to push for recognition of the genocide in Turkey as part of the negotiations for Turkey's desired accession to the EU. That initiative was unanimously accepted. Ms Huzinga explains the official Dutch position:

"More than one and a half million people were murdered during the time of World War I by Turkey and this was a genocide and you can absolutely compare this with the Holocaust."

Never took place
It was a clash with this position that brought the CDA candidates Ayhan Tonca, Osman Elamci and Labour Party candidate Erdinc Sacan into problems with their parties. Ayhan Tonca has constantly denied the genocide occurred:

"The genocide that people talk about never took place."

Although he doesn't deny that hundreds of thousands of people died, he argues that there needs to be further investigation to see if the killings were consciously carried out by the Turkish government at that time. Deliberate and conscious persecution would constitute genocide.

Newspaper interview
His explanation was not in line with the recognition of genocide called for by his party, and events that followed the initial uproar made things even harder for the CDA to accept. Under pressure following the discussion in the Dutch media, the two CDA candidates signed a declaration saying they had changed their minds and would now recognise the genocide. But then followed an interview with a Turkish newspaper in which they repeated their original denials - and this left the CDA with little choice but to remove them from the list of candidates.

The Labour Party decided to scrap its candidate from the list after he refused to stand by the official party policy recognising the genocide.

Experts accuse the parties of being somewhat naive in not carrying out more thorough checks before putting the candidates up for election. Professor of Turkish studies at Leiden University Erik Jan Zurcher says the parties were so anxious to have ethnic minority candidates on their lists that they didn't carry out the checks.

In Turkey itself it is official policy to deny the genocide and those saying it did take place are liable to prosecution. Just this week Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink made it known that he is being prosecuted for the second time for saying that the genocide took place.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

‘Armenian Genocide’ Draft on French Agenda

Friday, September 29, 2006
By Ali Ihsan Aydin, Paris

A proposed law that stipulates punishment for denying the alleged Armenian genocide is back on France’s agenda.

To ensure consideration by the parliament, the main opposition Socialist Party (SP), which prepared the draft law, used the right to “determine a special agenda.”

The proposal, which designates punishment for denying the Armenian genocide with a fine of 45,000 euros and up to five years imprisonment, will be discussed in the plenary session of the French parliament on Oct. 12.

Observers are optimistic that the proposal will be adopted because of the upcoming elections and the Armenian Diaspora’s intensifying efforts.

The draft was not voted in a parliament session in May since Jean Louis Debre, the chairman of the French parliament, who opposed the proposal, recessed that session twice.

Subsequently, the proposal was dropped from the parliament’s agenda.

The French government, reiterating that the endeavor would seriously harm bilateral relations between France and Turkey, also opposed the draft.

The session was attended by a fairly small number of deputies.

This time the draft came to the forefront amid preparations for the spring presidential and general elections.

It has been reported that the French politicians would not be able to stand against the draft, even if they were hesitant about it, because of the Armenian Diaspora’s influential lobby.

The draft aims at empowering the existing law promulgated in 2001 that openly recognizes the Armenian genocide by adding a sanction clause to it.

In order for the draft to be implemented it must be adopted by the National Assembly on Oct. 12 and then ratified by the French Senate without any amendments and revisions.

If even a single amendment proposal regarding the text is adopted at the Senate, the draft will be returned to the Assembly for further review.

Following Senate approval, the draft also requires the president’s ratification.

The recently improved bilateral relations between Turkey and France will be reportedly affected negatively, even in the case of the adoption of the draft by the Assembly on Oct. 12.

The French companies that seek to win Turkey’s

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The EU/Turkey Debate: Genocide recognition dropped from “official, formal” pre-requisite for membership

September 29, 2006 | Issue #36 (206), September 29, 2006

By Ruzanna Amiraghyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

By a vote of 429 for, 71 against and 125 abstentions, the European Parliament approved a report on Turkey’s progress on meeting the EU membership requirements by dropping, however, the clause on Ankara’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Dutch parliamentarian Keimiel Jorlings has stated the decision intended to make the report “fairer.”

“Officially, formally, recognition is not a criterion [for accession], which is the truth, but it is indispensable for a country on the road to membership to come to terms with its past.”

The Socialist and Liberal groups represented in the European Parliament demanded to refrain from the paragraph on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a precondition for Turkey’s accession to the European family.

Socialist Group Vice-President Jan Marinus Wiersma, responsible for EU enlargement policy, stated: "The EU should treat Turkey on the same basis as any other candidate country: the Copenhagen criteria. We cannot add new preconditions along the way.”

In response to the debates on Turkey’s progress on the way of accession in the European Parliament on September 4th the European Civil Society had issued a joint statement, which underlined among other items also that: “the fact that such a condition [recognition of the Armenian Genocide] was not formally imposed to other Candidate States does not constitute an argument proving its non-admissibility.

“The denial policy of Turkey is not only a permanent offence to our European values; it is also the mark of an ultranationalist and racial ideology which constitutes a concrete threat towards our societies and our children.”

September 25th, the president of the European Armenian Federation Hilda Choboian stated: “Turkey has imposed these amendments by intimidating certain members of the two groups. Several parliamentarians have even been personally threatened.”

“Over the past two months, pro-Turkish forces with European institutions have sought to ignore or marginalize more than 340 amendments, mostly critical of Turkey, that have been offered to the measure,” said the press release published by the European Armenian Federation earlier in September.

In an interview to Doctor of Political Science, head of Ararat Center for Strategic Studies Armen Aivazyan, stated: “Armenia and Armenians themselves cannot be a serious factor for EU accepting or not accepting Turkey. The Armenians are lately raffled off as a change for the sake of interests of European countries. Even the countries whose parliaments recognized the Armenian Genocide, do not observe norms according to the laws adopted; France, e.g., which recognized the Genocide in a special law. No conclusions are made out of it to apply to the current situation: the government, which committed the Genocide, is not indicated in the law.”

(The European Parliament adopted a document called The Political Resolution to the Armenian Issue on June 18th 1987. Further, European Parliament resolution on the opening of negotiations with Turkey adopted on September 28th 2005 included the recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a prerequisite for accession to the European Union.)

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


date: 29 09, 2006
Bahrein News Agency


Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Chirac Starts First-Ever Trip To Armenia

Friday 29, September 2006

By Karine Kalantarian

French President Jacques Chirac arrived in Armenia late Friday on a first-ever state visit which he has said will underline his country’s attachment to the Armenian people and their heritage.

He was greeted by President Robert Kocharian and other Armenian leaders in an official ceremony held at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport. The two men then headed to Kocharian’s official residence to attend a special reception in honor of Chirac and members of a large French delegation accompanying him on the three-day trip. Among them are three government ministers and prominent members of France’s influential Armenian community, notably singers Charles Aznavour and Michel Legrand.

Chirac is scheduled to hold talks with Kocharian on Saturday after laying flowers at Yerevan’s Tsitsernakabert memorial to the victims of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey and inaugurating a major square in the Armenian capital named after France. The two leaders will also attend later in the day an open-air concert by Aznavour, Legrand and other prominent French singers.

The concert, which is expected to attract tens of thousands of spectators, will officially kick off The Year Of Armenia France, a series of more than 400 exhibitions, performances and other events designed to present Armenian culture and history to the French people. Chirac has described this as a key purpose of what is a first-ever visit to post-Soviet Armenia by the head of a major Western power.

“Making a trip to Armenia is not something banal,” the 73-year-old president told a French-Armenian magazine ahead of his arrival in Yerevan. “It means visiting a place which had seen the genesis of the world; it means visiting one of the first and greatest Indo-European civilizations; and it means visiting a people who has for centuries been a friend of France and whose difficult destiny is known by the French.”

Chirac indicated that he will also urge the authorities in Yerevan to implement democratic reforms, saying that France is ready to help Armenia become a “rule-of-law state that guarantees public liberties.”

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006


ABHaber 26.09.2006 Strasbourg


Signed by 261 associations throughout Europe

Dear Members of Parliament,

We, European citizens, follow up with a sustained attention the Union enlargement process and especially the developments relating to Turkey’s controversial candidature.

We took note of the report on “Turkey’s progress towards accession” voted on Monday September 4 by the Committee on Foreign Affairs. We particularly noticed with delight that the European Parliament “reiterates its call on Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, as called for in the previous European Parliament resolutions of 15 December 2004 and 28 September 2005” and “considers such acknowledgment to be a precondition for European Union accession”.

We were also informed about threatening pressures exerted on you by Turkey and the disinformation campaign in order to remove this mention. As citizens of the Union, we are absolutely indignant that a foreign power with radically anti-European values can thus alter the sovereign appreciation formulated by our European representation on this issue.

This is why we take the liberty of reminding you the following facts:

1. The call for the Armenian genocide acknowledgment as a precondition by the European Parliament does not constitute at all an additional requirement towards Turkey. This requirement was clearly formulated in almost the same wording, less than a year ago, in the resolution on “opening the negotiations with Turkey":

“The European Parliament calls on Turkey to recognise the Armenian genocide; considers this recognition to be a prerequisite for accession to the European Union” (P6_TA(2005)0350, 28/09/2005);

This formulation is in the political line of those written in the preceding resolutions of 18 June 1987 and 15 December 2004. To water down or to remove it would constitute an obvious sign given to Turkey that the European Parliament is on the point of denying its principles,

2.The fact that such a condition was not formally imposed to other Candidate States does not constitute an argument proving its non-admissibility. The application of other States even would not be taken into consideration. The acknowledgement of its crimes by the State who perpetrated it is an accession criteria,

3.the calls reiterated by the European Parliament concerning this issue allowed the beginning of timid debates in Turkey. Weakening these demands would constitute an objective support to nationalists who want to eliminate in Turkey some dissident voices on this matter and to keep Turkey away from our European standards,

4.Turkey, who claims to wish to debate on this question, still has not answered to the Armenian president proposal which consists in establishing an intergovernmental commission in order to examine how to solve all the problems between the two countries and to create diplomatic relations. On the other hand, Turkey continues to deploy its denialist strategy in terms of historians committees and opening of archives in order to extract the genocide question from the political context of its candidature for the Union,

5.The denial policy of Turkey is not only a permanent offence to our European values, it is also the mark of an ultranationalist and racial ideology which constitutes a concrete threat towards our societies and our children.

Communities throughout Europe which are watching with anxiety the negotiating process with Turkey will be terribly disappointed seeing the EP retreat from the very laudable position established by its Foreign Affairs Committee on such a fundamental principle. We urge you to come forward with a proud vote upholding the Parliament's commitment in this matter."

Consequently, we urge you to maintain in plenary session the clear and adequate formulation of the paragraph 49 adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee.


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Kurdistan map angers Çömez during Kirkuk talks

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

A Kurdistan map hung on the wall of an office in Kirkuk where members of the Turkish Parliament held talks with the chairperson of the Kirkuk Provincial Council led to a debate as the map angered Turhan Çömez of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Çömez and his colleague, Orhan Ziya Diren of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), held talks yesterday with council chairperson Rizgar Ali as part of their four-day visit to the region. Their talks will apparently be dominated by talks in the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, the status of which will be decided upon after the results of a referendum slated for 2007.

Following their talks with Ali, Çömez wanted the map to be removed from the wall when he learned that it was a “Kurdistan map,” the Anatolia news agency reported.

“This map is not a proper one,” Çömez was quoted as saying by the agency.

When Ali explained that it was an antique map brought from a museum in London in response to Çömez' question, Çömez continued questioning: “This is a public office, is it proper to have an antique map in a public office? Why don't you hang a new map?”

“We hung the map because it has Kurdistan and Armenia on it,” Ali, who is known to be a staunch member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), responded.

“Maps and borders drawn on them do not matter. What matters is the togetherness of peoples,” Ali said, when Çömez offered him to give “more proper” maps when he visits Turkey.

The conversation between Çömez and Ali apparently continued in the form of a debate.

“The United States will not stay here but Turkey will always be here,” Çömez said as he looked at the antique map from the Ottoman Empire era.

“We can't forget the kindness of the United States towards us. It [the United States] saved us from a dictator,” Ali responded.

On their way from Arbil to Kirkuk, the Turkish parliamentarians had to wait for two hours after a landmine was found on the road. The landmine was defused by the U.S. security forces who escorted Çömez, Diren and journalists accompanying them on their way to Kirkuk.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dink faces new trial under Article 301

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

A prosecutor in Istanbul filed an indictment against Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, saying that he had committed the crime of “insulting Turkishness” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

The case was opened for remarks Dink made in an interview with a foreign news agency in which he said the killings of Armenians in Turkey around the time of World War I constituted genocide, Anatolia news agency said yesterday. The remarks were published in Agos newspaper, of which Dink is the editor in chief, on July 21, 2006

Dink could face up to three years in prison if convicted.

Two other executives of Agos newspaper, Arat Dink and Serkis Seropyan, are also facing the same punishment.

This is the second case Dink faces a court under Article 301, which the European Union says restricts freedom of expression in Turkey.

In July, the Supreme Court of Appeals agreed to approve Agos a six-month suspended sentence for Dink for “insulting Turkishness.”

The Şişli Second Criminal Court had found Dink guilty of insulting Turkishness and sentenced him to a six-month suspended sentence. The Supreme Court of Appeals Ninth Bureau had reversed the suspension, arguing there was no doubt Dink was guilty of committing the crime. The decision to suspend the sentence by the Şişli Second Criminal Court was appealed by Dink, who is seeking acquittal rather than suspension, and the complainants. The Supreme Court of Appeals Prosecutor's Office had sought annulment of the sentence, arguing that the material and emotional elements of the crime “insulting Turkishness” had not taken place. The Ninth Bureau said there was no doubt Dink's statement, “The clean blood that will replace the poisoned blood of the Turk is present in the honored veins that will be established between the Armenian and Armenia,” insulted Turkishness. “It is impossible to justify belittling a society while praising another with the freedom of expression as defined by the European Convention on Human Rights,” the bureau said. Dink had argued that what he meant by the statement was that Armenians had the strength to overcome their destructive hatred of Turks.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

EU assembly set to amend Turkey report

26 Sep 2006
The Parliament
Author: Daisy Ayliffe

The European parliament is set to amend a controversial report on Turkey’s EU membership bid.

Dutch MEP Camiel Eurlings says he is hopeful that his colleagues will remove calls for Ankara to recognise the Armenian genocide before Turkey is allowed to join the EU.

The clause, which provoked a political storm in Turkey, was inserted during the amendment process in the parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

Speaking to Turkish Daily News on Monday, Eurlings stressed that he would seek to tone down conclusions on Armenia.

“Certain things were added to my report during the vote in the foreign affairs committee,” he said.

Eurlings insists it was never his intention to force the Turks to formally recognise this chapter of their history.

“This amendment was added when my report was being debated in the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and it is an amendment I regret,” the Dutch MEP said.

The Armenia amendment was proposed in committee by the Socialist MEP Veronique De Keyser.

“That was against my will. This is not my line, and I will do my very best during the plenary to get this out,” Eurlings declared.

MEPs will debate the report on Tuesday – ahead of a Wednesday vote.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Open letter to Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani

9/26/2006 - By Xemgine Welat
Dear Mr. Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani,

As a Kurd, I am so honored to see the promising developments in the southern part of our homeland and also to see you as the Prime Minister of a unified Kurdish government. I have no doubt that you will serve our nation in the best possible way.

As the Kurds of the North (of Kurdistan) who are victims of cruel denial and suppression policies of the Turkish state and deprived of basic human rights, we turn our hope to southern Kurdistan and expect you to take some steps for 25 million Kurds in the biggest part of Kurdistan.

As you well know, we still can not speak Kurdish freely or get education in our mother tongue. Our language can not have any channels to survive and flourish. Due to this, the situation of the Kurdish language is getting worse by the day and speakers of our beloved language are decreasing gradually. Even in the capital city, Amed, the daily social, cultural and political life is in Turkish.

Needless to say, PKK is just as guilty as the Turkish state for not paying enough attention to the Kurdish language and culture and not prioritizing it. As Dr. Ismail Besikci states in one of his recent interviews, PKK uses the words Kurd and Kurdistan quite often, yet it has always used Turkish in its publications. There is also a significant amount of Turkish on Roj TV despite the worsening language issue; TV officials don’t seem to take any precautions on this matter.

While this is the gloomy picture of the North, we are enthusiastically looking forward to seeing good news from you about the world’s most oppressed language, the Kurmanji Kurdish dialect. It is a Kurdish dialect spoken by more than 25 million Kurds and subjected to countless repression; it wasn’t ever allowed to live freely, to be the language of academia, or be studied in universities except in the tiny Kurdish community in Armenia. Its speakers have always been tortured, beaten and killed; singers and writers were always persecuted. As a result of such brutal policies, millions of Kurds are not able to speak their mother tongue and the numbers of Kurmanji speakers seem to be dying day by day.

Your Excellency,

As the Prime Minister of Kurdish Regional Government, we expect your government to take immediate measures to protect Kurmanji from disappearing all together. In my opinion, a Kurmanji conference should be organized, for instance in Duhok, as soon as possible with the participation of Kurmanj linguists, academicians, and writers to determine the strategies needed to keep Kurmanji alive and ways to flourish it.

In addition, some funds should be arranged in order to publish Kurmanji books, newspapers, magazines and learning materials such as CDs and computer programmes.

Such suggestions can be increased but must be prioritized in accordance with most urgent ones. While, as I mentioned before, we are expecting excitedly, for you to make the misfortunate situation of our beloved Kurmanji better, we are shocked by the recent news coming from the south. Kurmanji, which you call Behdini over in the south, has no value and status. Although the amount of Kurmanji speakers in the South is not much less than the Sorani speakers, it is very disappointing that the Iraqi Kurdish leaders and politicians treat it like a step-son.

According to Permanent Committee on Geographical Names ( the amount of Sorani speakers is 2.8 million (10.6% of Iraqi population) whereas the amount of Kurmanji speakers is 2.2 millions (8.4 of Iraqi population). Despite the fact that there is little difference in the figures of the statistics, it is very saddening to see Kurmanji be put in this position.

Furthermore, it is no doubt that Kurmanji is the widely spoken dialect of the Kurdish language spoken by 75% of all Kurds. It is also the only dialect spoken in all four parts of Kurdistan, while Sorani is only spoken in two parts; some parts of Iraqi Kurdistan and Iranian Kurdistan.

If Kurdistan is one and Kurdish people are brothers, then there should be more respect and value for Kurmanji, and thus Kurmanji speakers. It is obvious that Kurdish people can not have a common language by ignoring Kurmanji or trying to lower its value. For this reason it is a shame to recently come across what we have been hearing and seeing all that is being discoursed in the news and the media.

First of all, there is an obvious intention to remove Kurmanji/Behdini, where this removal includes the removal of Kurmanji even from classes in the Behdinan region and make all classes Sorani. Secondly, we have read with great enthusiasm that, on behalf of the Kurdistan Regional Government, you signed an agreement with Microsoft as a participant of a world wide Windowsa Kurdi (Kurdish Windows) initiative. I, along with a number of other Kurds, felt honored and pleased to see such a development. Yet, like millions of Kurmanji speaking Kurds, it devastated me to hear that this Microsoft Windows will only be in Sorani with Arabic letters which means we, the Kurds of Turkey, will not be able to utilize such a product. I hope what has been reflected in the media is not true and that your government has made a deal with Microsoft for a Kurmanji Windows as well.

We have to understand the situation at hand was the doing of our enemies and those whose wish is to divide Kurds. To further the work of such enemies, that is by banning and removing Kurmanji, we are not progressing in any way but rather retreat the accomplishments we have made over the years. To make official such a decision will further deteriorate the unity the Kurds have experienced. Such an action is being done at the expense of the majority, where democracy fails to work and absolutism seems to prevail.

Your Excellency,

I am a proud Kurd and I love anything related to Kurds and Kurdistan. Although I am a Kurmanji Kurd, I also learned some Sorani not because it is superior or special, but because it is a part of my language. I love all Kurdish dialects and spend a great number of hours trying to learn more about them. Yet, our beloved Kurmanji, which was passed down to us by Ehmede Xani, Melaye Ciziri, Feqiye Teyran, Ehmede Beyazidi, Cegerxwin and beautiful voices of Mihemed Arife Ciziri, Hesen Ciziri, Eyshe Shan, Meryemxan, Mihemed Shexo, Karapete Xacho, Sheroye Biro, Kawis Axa and many others seems to come to a downfall for reasons we can overcome. It is our nationalistic and patriotic duty to preserve and promote it and pass it to future generations. At this point, the biggest responsibility falls onto Your Excellency’s shoulders and the hard working Kurdish politicians like yourself since you are the Prime Minister of the only free part of the homeland and along with your colleagues are the hope for all Kurds in South Kurdistan.

I wholeheartedly hope and believe that your government will take necessary measures to preserve and develop Kurmanji and that Kurmanji Microsoft Windows will be the first step in this direction.

Patriotically Yours,

Xemgine Welat

Xemgine Welat can be contacted on:

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Armenia and Azerbaijan exchange accusations on Nagorno-Karabakh during UN debate

Date: 26 Sep 2006
Relief Web
Source: United Nations News Service

Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other during addresses to the United Nations General Assembly of not being interested in achieving a lasting peace settlement in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Elmar Mammadyarov, Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, told the Assembly yesterday that a recent joint environmental operation between the two countries to tackle major fires inside Nagorno-Karabakh has been “the only positive development so far.”

“The occupying forces have to withdraw from the occupied territories and necessary conditions have to be in place to allow secure and dignified return of the Azerbaijani displaced persons to the Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding territories of Azerbaijan,” he said.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s status can only be defined “through peaceful, democratic and legal process with direct participation and consent of both Azerbaijani and Armenian communities,” he said, adding that the region’s economic development must be strengthened and its inter-communal relations enhanced.

But “it is difficult to hope for a breakthrough in the negotiations when Armenia rejects face-to-face meetings and refuses to take a constructive approach to solve existing problems.”

Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said yesterday that “the people of Nagorno-Karabakh chose long ago not to be represented by the Government of Azerbaijan. They were the victims of state violence, they defended themselves, and succeeded against great odds, only to hear the State cry foul and claim sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Mr. Oskanian said that last December Azerbaijan destroyed or removed thousands of hand-sculpted mediaeval Armenian tombstones.

“Such destruction, in an area with no Armenians, at a distance from Nagorno-Karabakh and any conflict areas, is a callous demonstration that Azerbaijan’s attitude towards tolerance, human values, cultural treasures, cooperation or even peace, has not changed.”

He added that “one cannot blame us for thinking that Azerbaijan is not ready or interested in a negotiated peace.”

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

EU: ”Reforms in Turkey - in the first place it is the interest of the Turkish citizens” EP debate on Turkey

26 September 2006
Europoena Union
Mr Olli Rehn Member of the European Commission, responsible for Enlargement
(the Eurlings report)
/ Strasbourg,

President, Honourable Members,

Let me first thank Mr Eurlings for his report which includes useful elements for the assessment of Turkey's progress towards accession. I also thank the members of the AFET Committee for their contribution.

Turkey's accession is a matter for constant debate. The momentum for reform has slowed down in Turkey in the past year. I will come back in a moment to the main reforms Turkey must address as a matter of priority.

However, we should not lose sight of the progress accomplished in the last decade, nor of our commitment towards Turkey. The goal of the negotiations started on 3 October 2005 is full EU membership of Turkey, and by its nature it is an open-ended process with no automatism.

This commitment stems from a solid understanding that integrating Turkey to the EU is of mutual benefit. The EU needs, for its own interest, a democratic, stable and increasingly prosperous Turkey. Turkey's strategic significance was once again illustrated by its decision to take part in the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon.

Moreover, Turkey's economic dynamism, its young population, and its potential key role as an energy hub will benefit our future prosperity.

For these reasons, and because Turkey sufficiently respected the political criteria, the European Council decided to open accession negotiations a year ago. This decision was widely supported in this Parliament. Progress in the negotiations, however, does not depend only on progress in the technical talks, but first and foremost on the pace of reforms on the ground related to the Copenhagen political criteria.

In the past twelve months, there has been a lack of progress in this regard. The expectations have risen since Turkey became a negotiating country on 3 October last year. It is therefore all the more important that new initiatives are taken and that tangible progress is still achieved before the Commission will present its report on 8 November.

Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of the reforms. Journalists, authors, publishers and human-rights activists still face judiciary proceedings for violations of article 301 of the penal code on the vague grounds of “insulting Turkishness”. In July, the final ruling of the Court of Cassation in the case of Hrant Dink established jurisprudence on the notorious article 301 that violates European standards. Thus, despite the acquittal of novelist Elif Shafak last week, the freedom of expression remains under threat. The judiciary proceedings have a chilling effect and damage the important work carried out by journalists, intellectuals and activists. I have repeatedly expressed my concern of this, latest to Foreign Minister Gül last week in New York. It is now high time that Turkey amends the restrictive articles in the penal code and brings them into line with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Freedom of expression is indeed a fundamental human right on which any open society is based, and a foundation for modernisation, social progress and solving conflicts between various social groups.

An open and constructive exchange of views is needed in Turkey, including the most sensitive issues. This is necessary both for the democratic process in Turkey and for facing tomorrow's challenges, as well as for Turkey's reconciliation with its neighbours, including Armenia. Reconciliation is a principle that is both the origin and the outcome of the European integration project. I therefore urge Turkey to continue to take concrete steps in this direction.

Freedom of religion is another area where tangible progress is needed. The Law on Foundations, which is currently debated in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, should address the shortcomings. Restrictions applied to non-Muslim religious groups on property rights, management of foundations and training of the clergy must be lifted.

There are also Muslim minorities that face discrimination. The Alevi, a Muslim community of 15–20 million, face legal restrictions to establish places of worship and receive no financial support from the state.

Turning to the Southeast, the spiral of violence undermines positive developments witnessed since the emergency rule was lifted some years ago. Terrorism is a common enemy: Turkey and the EU unequivocally condemn the PKK, and I deeply deplore the loss of innocent lives in the attacks that have taken place throughout the year.

However, a policy based merely on security considerations does not suffice to address the problems of this region. The Southeast faces an aggravated socio-economic situation, not only due to security threats, but also due to high unemployment and poverty. Greater effort is also needed to enhance cultural rights. We expect Turkey to soon adopt, as it has previously announced, a comprehensive strategy targeting all the needs of this region – economic, social and cultural needs.

Let me now turn to Turkey's obligation to respect its commitments. We expect Turkey to fully implement the Additional Protocol of the Ankara Agreement, and adapt it to the accession of ten new Member States.

Turkey should remove obstacles to the free movement of goods, including those on means of transport, which are in breach of the Association Agreement. Hence, Turkey should open its ports to vessels under flag of all Member States, including the Republic of Cyprus. As set out in the Negotiating Framework, the progress in the negotiations also depends on Turkey meeting its obligations. Let me once again reiterate that Turkey's obligations under the Ankara Protocol are not linked to the ending of economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community.

The draft report rightly calls on the Council to make renewed efforts to reach an agreement on the trade facilitation regulation concerning the Northern part of Cyprus. The Commission fully supports the efforts of the Finnish Presidency to overcome the stalemate on the trade regulation, thus helping the Council and the EU member states to live up to their commitments. It is also appropriate to underline the continuation of the constructive commitment by Turkey in finding a comprehensive settlement on the Cyprus question, acceptable to both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, based upon the principles the EU was founded.

President, Honourable Members,

To conclude: it is our mutual interest that Turkey pursues its democratic, societal and economic transformation with the goal of joining the EU. If Turkey succeeds, with our consistent support, it can become an ever sturdier bridge of civilisations, at a moment when the relationship between Europe and Islam is the greatest challenge of our time. Turkey is an important benchmark in this regard. It matters for our own future.

While the Commission is prepared to support Turkey along the process, it is ultimately up to Turkey to carry it forward. The extraordinary parliamentary session convened last week (19 Sept) to accelerate the adoption of the 9th reform package is a welcome step. Yet, a more resolute reform process is needed for Turkey to progress on the path to EU accession. In this process, we should remember that – as Prime Minister Erdogan suggests – the Copenhagen political criteria could actually be called the Ankara criteria, since they are there, in the first place, for the sake of Turkish citizens, not merely to please the EU.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Iran and Turkey Prepare for War in Iraqi Kurdistan

September 24, 2006
DEBKAfile, Israel, Exclusive Military Report

A new Middle East war is in the offing. DEBKAfile’s exclusive military sources in Iraq and sources in Iran reveal that Turkish and Iranian air units as well as armored, paratroop, special operations and artillery forces are poised for an imminent coordinated invasion of the northern Iraqi autonomous province of Kurdistan.

Our sources pinpoint the target of the combined Iranian-Turkish offensive as the Quandil Mountains (see picture), where some 5,000 Kurdish rebels from Turkey and Iran, members of the PKK and PJAK respectively, are holed up. Iranian and Turkish assault troops are already deployed 7-8 km deep inside Iraqi territory.

Turkey to the northwest and Iran to the east both have Kurdish minorities which have been radicalized by the emergence of Iraqi Kurdistan in the last three years. The three contiguous Kurdish regions form a strategic world hub.

A jittery Washington foresees a Kurdish-Iranian military thrust quickly flaring into a comprehensive conflict and igniting flames that would envelop the whole of Iraqi Kurdistan as well as southern Turkey and Armenia.

Tehran is quite capable of using the opening for its expeditionary force to grab extensive parts of Kurdistan and strike a strategic foothold in northern Iraq.

Informed US officials would not be surprised if Turkey took the chance of seizing northern Iraqi oil fields centered on the oil-rich town of Kirkuk, the source of 40 percent of Iraq’s oil output.

When he met US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in New York Thursday, Sept. 21, Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul said: “When we talk about Kirkuk, everybody supposes we want to bring the Kurdish-Turkish issue to the foreground. However, we instead see the uncertainty there as a general issue of Iraq. We are concerned that instability and turmoil in Kirkuk could cause more troubles in Iraq.”

Referring to the recently appointed special US coordinator Gen. Joseph Ralston, Gul expressed his hope that a resolution would be imminent.

The threat was implicit and impatient. Washington was given to infer that Ankara is on the point of deciding whether or not to capture Kirkuk, a step that would undermine a pivotal political and economic base of the Baghdad government and harm US interests in Iraq.

This conversation, which was not nearly as amicable as it looked from the press photos, was clouded by a disturbing incident: A semi-official American military publication recently ran a new map showing parts of Turkish and Armenian territory marked “Kurdistan.”

This map fueled suspicions in Ankara and the Armenian capital Yerevan that the US high military command was in on a plan for Iraqi Kurdish forces led by President Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani to help themselves to territory in Turkey and Armenia in a counter-attack to a potential Turkish-Iranian military move in Kurdistan.

This kind of mistrust has lent wings to Ankara’s resolve to go forward against Kurdistan - the sooner the better.

To cool tempers and restrain the Turks, the US ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, stood up in Ankara on Sept 19 and promised: “Northern Iraq won’t serve as a PKK base in the future.” In a speech at a meeting entitled "Agenda 2006," Wilson stated that the map published in an unofficial U.S. military magazine showing parts of Turkish and Armenian territory under the domination of a republic called "Kurdistan" doesn't reflect the official policy of the US.

The ambassador added that the recently stepped-up PKK violent attacks in Turkey “would not be tolerated anymore.”

These words were hardly likely to allay Ankara’s fears, since the ambassador addressed the PKK problem in the future tense, while the Turkish government is troubled by the present.

The approaching conflict, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, has an Israeli dimension. Since July, Turkish leaders have been impressing on the Bush administration that they have the right to attack Kurdish rebels who mount terrorist attacks in Turkey and take refuge across the border in Iraq’s Quandil Mountains – no less than the Israelis, who with US backing struck back at the Hizballah in Lebanon for its cross-border attacks into northern Israel.

Tehran is not bothering to justify its forthcoming operation in Kurdistan. DEBKAfile’s sources in Tehran report that Iran’s rulers are determined to go in without further ado and crush the Kurdish insurgents carrying out hit-and-run attacks in Iran in recent months.

Vital American and Israeli regional security interests in the Middle East are affected by three additional aspects of the potential anti-Kurdish flare-up.

1. Washington is not convinced by Ankara’s protestations of the absence of Turkish-Iranian military complicity. Turkey and Iran happen to find themselves in the same boat at the same time as targets of terrorists, say the Turks, and both have no choice but to use force to stamp out the violence. But for the Americans, the timing could not be more unfortunate. A possible US (and Israeli) plan to attack Iran’s nuclear installations at this time would be seriously hampered by the closure of Turkish and Kurdish air space to American and Israeli warplanes heading for Iran.

The war plot thickened further this week.

Friday, Sept. 22, while Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah harangued a million Lebanese spectators in Beirut, Iran’s ambassador to Turkey, Firouz Dolatabadi, spoke in Ankara in ominous tones. He said: “Iran, Turkey and Iraq are key points in the world’s geopolitics. Whoever dominates this region can control the whole world.”

Regarding relations between Iran and Turkey, ambassador Dolatabadi said: “History has it that whenever Iran and the Ottoman Emperor had good relations, we would witness good developments in the region.”

Good for whom? asked worried officials in Washington.

2. An Iranian-Turkish victory in a Kurdish campaign would award Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps its second victory in less than two months. The RG officers who commanded Hizballah forces in the Lebanon war of July and August claim full credit for its gains. They thwarted a key objective of the Israeli assault which was to cut Iran’s assets down to size in Lebanon and the western Middle East at large, and have left Iran’s military grip on the region firmer than ever.

3. Israel is concerned lest military action against Turkish PKK rebels uproot its military and economic presence in Iraqi Kurdistan. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that since 2004 Israeli military instructors and intelligence officer have been helping the Kurds build up their peshmerga army and anti-terrorist forces.

Iran and Turkey are convinced that Israel also maintains in north Iraqi Kurdistan observation and early warning posts to forewarn the Jewish state of a coming Iranian attack. If this is so, the two invaders will make a point of destroying such posts. Israel would then forfeit a key intelligence facility against the Islamic Republic.

Regarding Israel’s oft-reported, never officially-admitted, connection with Kurdistan, the BBC’s Newsnight program of Sept 20 claimed to have obtained the first pictures of Kurdish soldiers trained by Israelis in N. Iraq, as well as an interview with an unnamed former trainer.

DEBKAfile’s sources conjecture that the photos were leaked by two sources:

One, Turkish officials concerned to drum up a justifiable “context” for their coming offensive by smearing the Talabani-Barzani leadership as disloyal to Baghdad.

The Kurdish authorities have denied allowing any Israelis into northern Iraq. The purported Israeli trainer told the BBC interviewer that his team was told they would be disowned if discovered.

Two, Turkish or European elements who are anxious to abort an American or Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear industry by exposing Kurdish installations that might serve to expand Israel’s strategic options against Iran. The BBC producers suggested that refueling stops at the Irbil (Hawler) airport in Kurdistan would help the Israel air force overcome the problem of distance to an air strike against Iran.

The British program quoted the trainer as describing the courses given to Kurdish airport security people and army as diverse special operations forces’ anti-terrorism tactics and weapons. DEBKAfile adds that before Abu Musab al Zarqawi was taken out by American forces, his men sought high and low for Israeli instructors to abduct as hostages, but never found them.

The Bush administration recently appointed former NATO commander Gen. Joseph Ralston as special US coordinator in Ankara for the PKK issue in the hope of de-escalating the crisis caused by PKK attacks and delaying Ankara’s war operation against Iraqi Kurdistan. In the second week of September, he held a round of conferences with Turkish political and military leaders. His essential argument was that military action is the last option. But he made little headway. Many Turkish officials found the Ralston initiative too late to hold back the inevitable clash for a number of reasons.

They believe the delay he urged would play into the hands of the Kurdish rebels and give them time to consolidate their preparations to fight off an offensive.

Turkish intelligence reports that Talabani and Barzani are less busy with Iraqi affairs than with transferring large quantities of anti-tank and anti-air rockets to the anti-Turkish PKK and the anti-Iranian PJAK in their hideouts.

Ankara is keen, furthermore, to get in its blow against Kurdistan before an American action against Iran. The Turks buy Russian and Iranian intelligence evaluations according which the US attack may take place at any time between the last week of September and the end of December, 2006. So they feel the ground is burning under their feet.

Iran, for its part, is waiting for Turkey to make the first move in Iraqi Kurdistan. Its troops will go into action only after the first Turkish soldier and tank are on the move.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Seventeen wounded in bomb attack in eastern Turkey

Sep 24, 2006
monsters and critics
source: dpa

Istanbul - Seventeen people were injured, two of them seriously, in a terrorist attack Saturday evening in eastern Turkey, just hours after another bombing blamed on Kurdish extremists derailed a train.

The bomb exploded in a heavy truck parked outside a police station in the province city of Igdir, according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu.

The injured included people who were walking by the truck as the explosion occurred.

It was not known who carried out the attack. But the province where the attack occurred is on the border with Armenia, an area that has been spared attacks by Kurd rebels in the past.

Just hours before, a freight train in the eastern Turkey province of Erzincan was derailed by explosives mounted on the train track. No one was injured in the attack, which was blamed by Turkish officials on Kurdish extremists.

© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Anti-terrorism drills at Armenia NPP set for active phase

MOSCOW, September 25 (RIA Novosti) - A joint command and staff anti-terrorism exercise at nuclear power facilities in southwest Armenia will enter its active phase September 26, military officials said Monday.

The Russian-Armenian exercise, Anti-Terror-2006, which started at a nuclear plant in the city of Metsamor September 15 and will last until September 29, aims to practice coordination of law enforcement agencies in the event of a terrorist attack on vital infrastructure facilities.

"In the second stage of the exercise, the anti-terrorism task groups of the Armenian and Russian security services will set up a headquarters to organize and conduct a joint operation to release hostages and eliminate terrorists at the Metsamor NPP," said Colonel General Boris Mylnikov, head of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose union of 11 former Soviet republics.

He said representatives of the CIS, the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Greece, and anti-terrorist committees of the UN Security Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization had been invited to the exercise as observers.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Turkey starts to admit it has an ‘Armenian Question’

22 September, 2006
Asian News
by Mavi Zambak

Despite resistance and opposition by nationalists, books, newspapers and TV are starting to talk about the hitherto taboo issue. Judges are helping the process by throwing out cases against writers accused of insulting the nation and its institutions.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Section 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it an offence to insult Turkish identity, is outdated, a leftover from a nationalist past that is still hanging, thanks in part to groups like the Grey Wolves, who are linked to the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi or MHP). It was Grey Wolves’ member Mehmet Ali Ağca who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981.

Last year famous Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk received death threats after admitting to a German newspaper that a million Armenians had been killed in Turkey. He was also charged under Section 301 with denigrating “Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, [. . .] the Government of the Republic of Turkey, the judicial institutions of the State, the military or security organizations”. Only after several postponements and Europeans grumbling about Turkey’s commitment to freedom of expression was the writer found not guilty on January 24 of this year.

Similarly, elements within the judiciary close to the MHP tried to ban a conference entitled Ottoman Armenians During the Decline of the Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy at Istanbul’s Bilgi University on September 24-25 2005 after it was blocked in the previous May because its scientific validity and the qualifications of its participants were challenged. Also in this case, protests in favour of academic freedom led Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to intervene and so it went ahead.

Elif Şafak, a young Turkish writer who lives in the United States, went on trial yesterday for the same reason. Charges were brought again by Kemal Kerincsiz, head of the Executive Board of the Lawyers' Association, which pretends to defend the country against any writer, editor, journalist or free thinker opposed its own narrow-minded nationalism.

On trial with Ms Şafak was her bestselling novel The Bastard of Istanbul (50,000 copies already sold) in which an Armenian character accuses “Turkish butchers” of massacring Christian Armenians from 1915 till the end of the Ottoman Empire.

If Pamuk risked three years in prison for a historical-political statement, Ms Şafak faced the same prospect for words uttered by a fictional character in a novel that had nothing autobiographical about it. But she too was acquitted and case against her was thrown out of court. Kemal Kerincsiz lost again.

With the exception of a few nationalist lawyers who protested outside the Istanbul courthouse, no one has questioned the judge’s decision.

The writer was not present at the proceedings because she gave birth to a daughter over the weekend. But outside the courthouse nationalist protesters came face to face with her left-wing supporters. As a shouting match quickly descended into scuffles, riot police moved to stop them from degenerating.

All this is a sign that Turkish nationalism is no longer what It used to be: the ban on talking about Armenian issues is increasingly being violated.

For years, Turkey has tried to tackle its own recent history. The Armenian Question is undoubtedly one of the hardest and most painful ones. It is at the core of a process Turkish historian Altuğ Taner Akçam has called the black hole of the Turkish Republic’s identity. Leading the charge are Turkish journalists and intellectuals.

“There is a silent revolution underway but it is largely the work of reform-minded political and cultural elites,” Ms Şafak said. “The refusal to acknowledge the genocide inflicted on the Armenian people stems from collective amnesia, a fracture point in [a people’s] memory”. Several cultural events are however underway to “give back to the Turkish people its own memory and past”.

In early 2005 an exhibit showcasing some 600 old postcards opened in Istanbul. The purpose was to allow ordinary Turkish citizens to see how important and rooted the Armenian presence was on Ottoman territory. The opening of Istanbul’s Armenian Museum, inaugurated by Prime Minister Erdogan himself, represents another step in the same direction.

On the 90th anniversary of the genocide (1915-1916), TV stations, including state-run broadcasters, devoted several programmes to the Armenian Question inviting historians and intellectuals with different points of view to round table discussions.

With in-depth reports, interviews and editorials, print media has also begun covering the Armenian Question and modern Armenia.

The publishing industry has also started to do its part by releasing many books in Turkish on the issue.

Another element in this trend is the number of Turks of Armenian origin daring to speak out. For decades descendants of Armenians converted to Islam to escape the massacres tried to hide their shameful origins. Now, taking advantage of greater openness in today’s Turkish society, many are coming out into the open and reclaim their roots.

Lawyer Fethiye Cetin was amongst the first to do it. In her 2004 book Anneannem (My Grandmother), she tells the story of her grandmother who was born in an Armenian village in Elazig province, eastern Turkey. Based on the old woman’s recollections of her life, the tragic events of 1915, the massacre of the men of her village, the deportation of the women, her own adoption by a Muslim family and conversion come alive again. The book has sold 12,000 copies and is in its 7th printing.

What is important to Ms Cetin is that hundreds of “people in a situation like mine called to tell me: ‘Me too, my grandmother . . . always with a veil of suffering.”

“I hope that my book will be a trailblazer. I, too, was afraid to deal with this because it is so taboo,” she said. “Being called an Armenian was an insult. Armenians are seen as conspirators, but today there is process of digging out” the truth.

After her book came out others started revealing that they, too, were partly Armenian according to columnist Bekir Coskun. This set in motion a new trend as more and more people tried to stir the murky waters of their past.

Film maker Berke Bas is one of them. She set out to find out more about of her own old grandmother’s story and interviewed residents of Ordu, a town on the Black Sea, in north-eastern Turkey.

“Many people provided me with information. They remembered very well their old neighbours,” she said. “Turks in Ordu remember with sadness and nostalgia a time of peace and coexistence.”

For the young woman who learnt about her Armenian ancestry only as an adult, Turks today are better prepared to look at their past and are happy to discover a history that is different from the official version, one in which Armenians were portrayed as cruel enemies.

“In my opinion half of all Turks are of Armenian origin,” said Luiz Bakar, an attorney for Istanbul’s Armenian Patriarchate, as she told stories of converts who talked to her.

According to Bakar, every year about 20 people or so, who lived most of their life as Muslims, come to the Armenian Patriarchate to be baptised finding their way back to the religion of their forebears before they, too, die.

In order to look at the past with courage the nationalist stranglehold over history must be broken. Only this way can the country’s painful and troubled past be brought to light without fear of losing face or one’s honour.

This is why more and more people want Section 301 of the Penal Code abolished, a step the European Union has insistently called for. Not only does it criminalise any affront to Turkishness but it also stifles freedom of thought and limits the rights of historians to freely conduct their research.

Prime Minister Erdogan himself welcomed the court’s decision in favour of Ms Elif Şafak.

He went further and said that parliament must take heart and sit down to calmly discuss abolishing or at least unanimously amending the offensive section that has forced to so many Turkish intellectuals to stand in the defendant’s box.

Still another writer, Ipek Calishar, is up for trial on October 5. She is faced with a possible five-year sentence for writing the story of Atatürk’s former wife thanks to the latter’s sister. Like the Armenian Question, the founder of the Turkish Republic is another issue, too taboo for Turkish nationalists.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Senate Panel Bans U.S. Funding For ‘Anti-Armenian’ Rail Link

Friday 22, September 2006
By Emil Danielyan

A key committee of the U.S. Senate has joined the House of Representatives in banning U.S. government assistance to controversial plans for the construction of a railway that would link Turkey with Georgia and Azerbaijan and bypass Armenia.

A legal amendment approved by the Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee under pressure from Armenian-American lobbying groups late Thursday forbids the U.S. Export-Import Bank from financing any regional railroad that “does not traverse or connect with Armenia.” The House passed a virtually identical bill in late July.

The ban is likely to be endorsed by the full Senate and signed into law by President George W. Bush. Bush administration officials have not voiced objections to the bill. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried told Congress earlier this year that implementation of the $400 million project discussed by the Turkish, Georgian and Azerbaijani governments “would not be beneficial to regional integration.”

“Armenia is a valued friend of the United States and our government ought not to be supporting programs or initiatives in the South Caucasus that exclude that country from participation,” said Rick Santorum, one of the two senators who introduced the amendment.

The Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), which has lobbied the U.S. government to thwart the project, hailed the Senate committee vote. “We commend the leadership of Senators Santorum and [Robert] Menendez for introducing legislation that would prevent Armenia’s neighbors from isolating her,” the AAA executive director, Bryan Ardouny, said in a statement.

ExImBank is a federal government agency which provides loans, loan guarantees and insurance to support U.S. exports. The congressional ban will therefore also discourage private U.S. companies from investing in the Tbilisi-Kars-Akhalkalaki railway.

However, its significance has already been downplayed by Turkish and Azerbaijani officials who say Ankara and Baku have sufficient resources to finance the project. “We don’t need ExImBank’s assistance,” Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov said on July 27.

The head of Georgia’s state railway, Irakli Ezugbaya, was reported to have announced last week that work on the 192-kilometer-long Georgian section of the planned rail link will be financed by a zero-interest loan to be disbursed by the Azerbaijani government. He said Baku and Tbilisi could sign a relevant agreement by the end of September.

The Armenian government argues that there already exists a railroad connecting Turkey to the South Caucasus via Armenia and that the regional countries should reactivate it instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on building a new one. The Kars-Gyumri rail link has stood idle more than a decade as part of the continuing Turkish economic blockade of Armenia.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Armenia Marks Independence Day With Military Parade

21, September 2006
By Emil Danielyan and Ruzanna Khachatrian

Armenia put on the biggest show of its military might in seven years Thursday as it marked the 15th anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union and received congratulations from U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders.

Hundreds of soldiers, military vehicles, towed artillery systems and other pieces of hardware paraded past the country’s leaders standing on a podium erected in Yerevan’s main square for the occasion. Thousands of ordinary people were also present at the procession that was broadcast live by the main Armenian television stations.

“Today Armenia is a steadily developing country,” President Robert Kocharian told the troops lined up in the sprawling Republic Square. “Successful reforms are underway in all areas of life. The high tempo of economic growth makes Armenia a new, more promising country.”

The independence holiday marked for the past 15 years is dedicated to the September 21, 1991 referendum in which a crushing majority of Armenians voted to secede from the crumbling Soviet Union. Armenia’s first post-Communist parliament formally declared independence two days later.

Kocharian’s office said the Armenian leader received congratulatory messages from about two dozen world leaders, including the presidents of the United States, Russia, France, Germany, China and Iran as well as Emperor Akihito of Japan.

The military parade, the first since September 1999, was the highlight of official celebrations of the event that were taking place in the Armenian capital and other parts of the country throughout the day. They were due to end with fireworks and a late-night pop concert to be staged in another major Yerevan square.

In his speech, Kocharian praised the role of the Armed Forces in Armenia’s post-Soviet history. “The armed forces of the Republic of Armenia are a reliable defender of the Motherland of all Armenians,” he said.

The parade began with Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian inspecting the troops in a white convertible and separately congratulating each section of soldiers representing the five Armenian army corps, the interior and border troops as well as the armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh. Their goose-stepping march around the square was followed by a procession of armored personnel carriers and artillery systems. Warplanes, including Russian MiG-29 fighter jets, and helicopter gunships roared overhead in the meantime.

The high-profile event did not feature tanks and other armored vehicles with caterpillar tracks that could damage asphalt covering the repaired streets of central Yerevan. The Armenian authorities instead put on display what appeared to be new surface-to-surface rockets with a firing range of up to 110 kilometers. The displayed weaponry also included Russian-made Krug, Osa and S-125 anti-aircraft missile systems that make up Armenia’s air defenses.

Many of the people in the packed Republic Square were clearly impressed. “I think the parade was brilliantly organized,” said one young woman. “The only shortcoming is that not everyone here got a good view of it.”

Even prominent opponents of the Armenian government welcomed the scale of the celebration. “I note with satisfaction that the authorities which in essence have nothing to do with independence … are marking our greatest holiday with so much pomp and fanfare,” said Paruyr Hayrikian, who had spent 17 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps for agitating for Armenia’s independence.

“I am proud of having seen independent Armenia,” said Vazgen Manukian, another prominent oppositionist who served as the country’s prime minister in 1990-1991. “This is not exactly Armenia I dreamed about, but everything still lies ahead.”

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Top novelist acquitted in Turkey

September 21, 2006

Elif Shafak hoped her novel would encourage empathy
A court in Istanbul has acquitted the best-selling Turkish novelist, Elif Shafak, who had been accused of insulting Turkish national identity.

Ms Shafak, 35, had faced charges for comments made by her characters on the mass killings of Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Turkey rejects Armenia's claim that the killings constituted "genocide".

The EU welcomed the court ruling, but urged Turkey to scrap a law that makes it a crime to insult "Turkishness".

The trial was seen by the EU as a test of freedom of expression in Turkey, which began membership talks with the 25-member bloc last October.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also welcomed the verdict and signalled that the government would consider amending Article 301 of Turkey's penal code. It envisages up to three years in jail for "denigrating Turkish national identity".

"The ruling party and the opposition can sit down together again to discuss this issue as laws are not eternal," Anatolia news agency quoted Mr Erdogan as saying.


The proceedings lasted just 40 minutes and ended in utter chaos, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports.

Key moment for Turkey

The judges said they based their decision on lack of evidence to prove that Ms Shafak "denigrated Turkish national identity" in her novel, The Bastard Of Istanbul.

Ms Shafak - who recently gave birth to her first child - was not present at the hearing.

Ms Shafak said by telephone that she was extremely relieved her trial was over.

But she expressed concerns that there would be other similar cases in the future as long as Article 301 "is out there".

The nationalist lawyers who brought the case walked out in anger shortly after the trial opened.

They claimed the court and judges had been unduly influenced by the EU.

Riot police moved in to stop scuffles between nationalists and leftists outside the courthouse.

'Autonomy of art'

One of the lawyers who filed the complaint against Ms Shafak had claimed that her novel was Armenian propaganda, dripping with hatred for the Turks.

One of the novel's characters speaks of "Turkish butchers" and a "genocide", while others talk about being "slaughtered like sheep".

Ms Shafak was the latest in a long line of writers to face similar charges in Turkey. But this was the first time Article 301 had been used against a work of fiction.

"If Article 301 will be interpreted in this way nobody can write novels in Turkey anymore, no-one can make movies any more," Ms Shafak told the BBC before the trial.

"The words of a character could be used as evidence against the author or the film director. I think it is extremely important to defend the autonomy of art, and of literature," she said.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.