Friday, December 28, 2007

Turks say they were absent from Armenian hearings due to religious holiday

A missed chance or intentional boycott?
"The Chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Relations of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, Armen Rustamian, sent me an invitation via e-mail to attend the parliamentary hearings organized under the heading "Armenian-Turkish Relations: Problems and Perspectives" held on 19-20 December. Although they do not engender immediate results, such hearings are essentially useful as they are conducive to aiding the parties involved gauge each other’s viewpoints. For this reason, I would have liked to have been able to take part in the said discussions. Unfortunately, I had to inform Rustamian that I would not be able to attend due to prior engagements,” Omer Engin Lutem, chairman of the Eurasian Strategic Research Center (ASAM), said in a letter to Armen Rustamian.

“As gathered from the press, 20 or so Turks were invited to attend the hearings. Among them were personalities such as Taner Akcam, Fatma Muge Gokcek and Halil Berktay who fully espouse and have taken it upon themselves to win others over to Armenian views; people such as Orhan Pamuk and Baskin Oran who adhere to views that fall fairly in line with the Armenian stance; and individuals such as Can Paker who approach the subject matter from the perspective of the European Union. Apart from myself, in order to voice the "Turkish standpoint", Turkish Historical Society President Yusuf Halacoglu, and International Strategic Research Institute Director Sedat Laciner were invited to attend. Most likely Patriarch Mutafian was called upon to participate in order to represent Turkey’s Armenian community. As these hearings were organized by the National Assembly of Armenia, it would only have been appropriate if members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly were invited to attend as well. However, on this point, nothing surfaced in the press,” he wrote.

“All Turks invited notified how they would not be able to attend the hearings. No doubt this is a result of the hearings corresponding with a religious holiday and a result of the invitations having been made so late, and hence due to those in question having prior engagements,” he added.

“The importance of such hearings rests in generating greater understanding concerning the views and standpoints of the parties concerned. Looked at from this perspective, it would be worthwhile if the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s concerned commissions were to organize a similar meeting in the coming months," Lutem whote.

Meanwhile, Armen Rustamian said that the Turkish government spoke out against the arrival of Turkish scholars. “We provided a firm guarantee of security but Ankara decided that their presence would be inexpedient. For our part, we expressed readiness to travel to Turkey for similar hearings dedicated to cancellation of article 301,” Rustamian said.

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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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