Thursday, June 14, 2007

Scholars launch new initiative in genocide row

Thursday, June 14, 2007
Turkish Daily News

The civilian move is unlikely to give impetus to efforts for a resolution of a series of bilateral disagreements between Ankara and Yerevan including genocide allegations, retired Amb. Gündüz Aktan says

A group of scholars have taken a civilian initiative to establish dialogue between Turks and Armenians and create an atmosphere of free debate with regard to hotly contested issues in bilateral ties, including the alleged genocide of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

“Not only Turks and Armenians but third parties as well who are specialists on the Armenian issue can come together in the future to put existing problems under the spotlight,” retired Ambassador Ömer Engin Lütem, director of the Institute for Armenian Research at the Ankara-based Eurasian Strategic Studies Center (ASAM), told the Turkish Daily News yesterday.

In April, the New York-based Elie Wiesel Foundation issued an appeal signed by 53 Nobel laureates in various fields, calling for tolerance, contact and cooperation between Turks and Armenians, a move that came three months after the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul.

To foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, an issue that Dink dedicated years, the foundation called on the two peoples to encourage their governments to open the border, generate confidence through civil society cooperation, improve official contacts and allow basic freedoms.

On Tuesday, the Turkish Institute for Armenian Research publicly welcomed the appeal in a written declaration signed by 86 Turkish scholars, describing it as a doorway to opening a process of dialogue between the two communities.

“We can say this initiative aims at opening a door of dialogue between Turks and Armenians and is completely civilian, which is nothing to do with governments. We are ready for dialogue at the civilian level,” said Lütem.

Former Turkish Ambassador to Washington Faruk Loğoğlu, who now chairs ASAM, retired Ambassador Gündüz Aktan and political scientist Sedat Laçiner were among the experts who signed the declaration – a copy of which was sent to the Elie Wiesel Foundation yesterday.

Aktan told the TDN that the civilian initiative was unlikely to give impetus to efforts for a resolution of a series of disputes between Turkey and Armenia, apparently referring to the Turkish government's proposal to set up a joint committee of historians to study genocide allegations, which was turned down by the Armenian government.

“Normalization of bilateral ties is out of the question without progress on the genocide claims and the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute,” said Aktan, former member of a commission that advises the government on countering genocide allegations.

Laçiner, speaking with the TDN considered the appeal by the Nobel laureates to be “well-intentioned” but said the move should approach the two parties equally, without putting all the blame for the existing problems between Ankara and Yerevan on a single party.

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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