Saturday, June 16, 2007

Armenians taking ASAM initiative with a grain of salt

Saturday, June 16, 2007
Turkish Daily News

The response by Turkish Armenians to the initiative by the Institute for Armenian Research at the Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies (ASAM) to resolve the differences between Turkey and Armenia is caution tempered with interest, with most preferring to keep quiet on the matter for now.

An appeal calling for tolerance, contact and cooperation between Turks and Armenians was issued on April 9, 2007 by the New York based Elie Wiesel Foundation and signed by 57 Nobel laureates. It called for Armenians and Turks to encourage their government to open the border between Turkey and Armenia.

In response, the Institute for Armenian Research welcomed the statement, noting that it viewed it as a doorway facilitating a process of dialogue between the two peoples. The ASAM document was signed by 86 Turkish scholars and retired ambassadors. ASAM is perceived as a right-wing think tank with close links to the military and the state.

While Istanbul Technical University Department of History of Art's Elmon Hançer welcomes every initiative on the matter, arguing that differences between Armenians and Turks can only be resolved by the two peoples.

“Despite the fact that the border between the two countries remains closed, civil initiatives and cultural exchanges are important for the two nations to find common ground,” she said

Hançer said she was against the mediation of other countries to resolve the problems, adding, “I can't understand why western countries that kept silent during the unfortunate incidents are now trying to mediate.”

She said she believed it was up to far-sighted people in both countries to overcome the problems.

Cartoonists Ohannes Şaşkal and Sarkis Paçacı told the Turkish Daily News that official meetings had to take the lead in any such effort, noting that they were not too positive on the initiative by ASAM.

Agos editor and artist Mayda Saris said any initiative in the name of peace between the two peoples was welcome, adding, “I for one am waiting to see how sincere the initiative is.”

When asked about the cautious wait and see stance by Turkish Armenians, the head of the Institute for Armenian Research, retired Ambassador Ömer Engin Lütem said he didn't want to comment, arguing that nothing will be gained by skepticism. “We replied to the statement by the Nobel laureates as scholars and retired ambassadors. Due to the fact that there is no official contact between Turkey and Armenia, we believe civil initiatives will help in overcoming obstacles,” he said.

As an institute, they were open for dialogue from any organization that dealt with the Armenian problem, he said, noting that Turks and Armenians should resolve their differences together.

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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