Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ankara to renew diplomatic action on Armenia

Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu

Turkey, long under international pressure to recognize the so-called Armenian genocide claimed to have been committed by the Ottoman Turks during World War I, is prepared to take a diplomatic initiative in the coming days or weeks to force some influential countries, such as the US, Britain and Russia, to take concrete action to enable Armenia to accept a Turkish proposal put forward almost two years ago for the establishment of a joint commission of historians that will investigate the genocide allegations in depth.

Turkey's possible initiative comes as European Union term president Germany reportedly has prepared a draft resolution that will penalize those in EU countries who even describe the Armenian genocide as a deportation, as well as, on the other side of the Atlantic, the possibility of an Armenian genocide resolution to be adopted by the Democrat-controlled US Congress.

Turkish diplomats did state that the adoption of such a resolution by the US Congress has become less likely now as the Democrats have become more aware of the harm such a resolution could inflict on Turkish-US relations. Turkey closely cooperates with its NATO ally the US in the war on terror, mainly in Afghanistan, but also in Iraq, as the US has been using the İncirlik airbase in southern Turkey as a cargo hub for the transport of its non-lethal goods. US oil needs have also been considerably met via Turkey.

Almost 19 countries in the world, from Uruguay to Armenia, have already recognized the so-called Armenian genocide they believe was committed by Ottoman Turks, while a majority of US states recognize the genocide allegations. Turkey's possible diplomatic initiative to ensure the convening of the joint commission with Armenia comes against this background.

Prime Minister Erdoğan declared in 2005 that Turkish archives with no exception would be opened to the historians of both Turkey and Armenia as well as to academics, to examine whether the World War I killing of Armenians could be described as genocide. His offer to set up a joint commission of historians has not yet been answered positively by Armenia, allegedly under the strong influence of the hard-line Armenian diaspora.

A Turkish government source speaking to Today's Zaman stated that it has been hard to understand why the influential states of the world have been doing nothing to convince Armenia to agree to the joint commission, which could also be open to the historians of third party countries. Behind this indifference might lie the concern that real and serious evidence to support genocide allegations will not be found, the same sources stressed.

Thus, nowadays, Ankara has concentrated on efforts to take an initiative, the details of which government sources declined to go into at this stage, to force influential powers to convince Armenia to agree on the activation of the joint commission.

Turkish Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gül also recently urged the joint commission to convene in an editorial published in The Washington Times on March 28.

Gül stated in his editorial: "With regard to the Armenian allegation describing the tragedy that befell them as genocide, the question, from the point of view of international law, is whether the Ottoman government systematically pursued a calculated act of state policy for their destruction in whole or in part. The answer to this question can only be established by scholars who have the ability to evaluate the period objectively, working with the full range of available primary sources. Hence Turkey made a proposal to Armenia in 2005 to establish a joint commission of historians to find out once and for all what really happened, and how it took place."

Taking the matter to court is unlikely at the moment

Despite earlier expectations that Ankara might open its borders with its northwestern neighbor Armenia or decide to take the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), neither appear to be standing as priority for Ankara at the moment with emphasis being given on the convening of the joint commission of historians.

Government sources told Today's Zaman that Turkish legal experts have currently been studying the legal aspect of the issues as well as the February decision of the ICJ on Serbia. The court examining the case brought by Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia, in its controversial decision of Feb. 26 this year, cleared Serbia of genocide in Bosnia while acknowledging the Serbian killing of Bosnians, at Srebrenica in particular in 1995 when over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were massacred. Thus, Turkish legal experts have also been examining, among other things, whether the ICJ decision on Serbia could bring Turkey closer to clearing it of Armenian genocide allegations.

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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