Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The second chance for rapprochement with Armenians misses

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Today's Zaman

Turkish government decided to keep the inauguration of Akdamar Church low profile since the Armenian diaspora is not eager to participate.

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

The inauguration of Akdamar Church on March 29 will not be an opportunity for the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia and Turkey will miss the second chance for rapprochement after the assassination of Hrant Dink, said sources familiar with the issue talking to the Turkish Daily News yesterday.

In the eve of a resolution proposed to the U.S. House of Representatives for acceptance of genocide claims, Ankara was ambitious for the opening ceremony of Akdamar Armenian Church. Turkey aimed to prevent the acceptance of Armenian claims for evaluating the 1915-1919 events as genocide by the United States with the resolution proposed to the House of Representatives and planned to show the respect of Turkish society to different cultures and religions by opening Akdamar Church.

More than 200 Armenians from New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Ottawa and Paris were invited in addition to the Armenians from Yerevan including the clergymen and representatives of nongovernmental organizations who attended Dink's funeral. The invitations were prepared in coordination with the Turkish-Armenian's Patriarch, Mesrob Mutafyan, said the Turkish sources. In the invitations sent by the Van governor, Turkey excluded the extremist Tashnaks and preferred to invite moderate Armenians. Just a week before the ceremony, Turkey is now suspicious about the attendance of Armenians.

Despite the invitation it is still unclear whether Armenian Culture Minister Hasmik Poghosian will attend the inauguration of the newly renovated 10th century Akdamar Church and Yerevan did not give an answer to the invitation conveyed by the Turkish Embassy to Tibilisi. In response, Ankara adopted a low profile policy on Akdamar, saying, “There is no need to exaggerate, we are opening historical places every year.”

Akdamar Church or the Church of the Holy Cross is a ruined Armenian Church in Van of Eastern Anatolia.

The expectations of Armenians were not realized said Kaan Soyak, the co-chairman of the Turkish-Armenian Business Council, talking to TDN. Soyak criticized Turkish foreign policy for being addicted to Azerbaijan and expressed the disappointment of Armenians for not opening the Turkish-Armenian border for inauguration day. He claimed that most of the moderate Armenians who wish to come would prefer to protest in response to Ankara's policies.

Turkish sources on the other hand argued a direct flight between Yerevan and Van airport is impossible saying, “It is not possible to sustain security measures in Van because of technical reasons.”

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations, and the border between the two countries has been closed since 1993. Hopes have risen for normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties when the Turkish government invited Armenian officials and representatives of the diaspora to participate in Dink's funeral ceremony. He was shot to death in Istanbul in January. But no visible development in the name of reconciliation between the two countries has been observed since then.

Karakin II did not receive the invitation:

Ankara invited the Patriks and Metropolits of Damascus, Aleppo, Moscow, Bukresh, Beirut as well as the five Orthodox representatives from Yerevan. In that context, head of the Armenian Orthodox Church Karekin II was invited by the governor of Van, Niyazi Tanılır. “Karekin II will not attend because he only got a note for the invitation, the invitation was not sent,” said the sources who are in contact with Yerevan. Turkish sources on the other hand asserted that it is not intentional and it is false.

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.

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