Friday, September 21, 2007

Patriarch’s speech postponed under US Armenian pressure

Today's Zaman Ankara

A theological center at Georgetown University has indefinitely postponed a presentation by Patriarch Mesrob II (Mutafyan), the spiritual leader of Turkey's Armenian Orthodox community, citing "logistical conflicts" as the reason.

Yet statements by an influential lobby group of the Armenian diaspora in the United States clearly indicate that the reason for the postponement was strong pressure from the Armenian diaspora, which is at odds with the conciliatory attitude of Mesrob II concerning the Armenian allegations of genocide.

The presentation by Mesrob II entitled "The Impasse between Turks and Armenians Must Be Broken" was scheduled to take place at the Woodstock Theological Center of Georgetown University on Thursday afternoon. The presentation was to be a joint activity held in collaboration with the Rumi Forum, established by Turks living in Washington, D.C., to enhance inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.

The influential Armenian National Committee of America recently sent a letter to all members of the US Congress regarding the ongoing visit of the Armenian patriarch, Armenian media reported. Meanwhile, Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian told the Armenian media that the letter stressed the following: "The patriarch -- like the leaders of all religious minorities in Turkey -- lives in constant fear of acts of discrimination and retribution by a Turkish government that actively persecutes those who speak freely on human rights and other 'sensitive' issues. As a virtual hostage, the patriarch -- whose life has been threatened on many occasions -- will, as he has in the past, be forced to follow the Turkish government's line. It is truly shameful that Turkey has resorted to using coercion -- cynically taking advantage of the concern of Patriarch Mesrob for the safety of his flock -- in a last ditch attempt to block the adoption of the Armenian genocide resolution."

Two separate resolutions are pending in the US Senate and House of Representatives urging the administration to recognize the World War I-era killings of Anatolian Armenians as genocide. Turkey has warned that passage of the resolutions in the US Congress would seriously harm relations with Washington and hence impair cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US administration has said it is opposed to the resolution, but the congressional process is an independent one.

"The Armenian genocide resolution pending in the US Congress disrupts both the relations between Turkish people and Armenians in Turkey and between Turkey and Armenia," Mesrob II said in an exclusive interview published in Today's Zaman on Monday.

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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