By Karine Kalantarian
Political groups holding the majority of seats in the Armenian parliament joined on Tuesday a wave of criticism directed at a recent initiative to promote reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, saying that Ankara wants thereby to stave off international recognition of the 1915 genocide.
“Attempts to hide the historical truth and initiatives aimed at an artificial reconciliation can not contribute to the establishment of normal relations,” five leading parties and two non-partisan parliamentary factions said in a joint statement. “Such actions indirectly aim to remove the fact of the Armenian Genocide from agenda and ensure Turkey’s meaningful presence in the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) negotiations.”
The statement, issued at the initiative of the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party, came in response to the creation earlier this month of an unofficial Turkish-Armenian reconciliation commission comprising retired senior diplomats from the two neighboring countries and representatives of the Armenian Diaspora. The commission’s stated goal is to facilitate dialogue between the Armenian and Turkish peoples divided by centuries of feud.
The initiative reportedly enjoys the tacit support of the authorities in Ankara and Yerevan. The Armenian government, however, has distanced itself from the commission in the face of domestic fears that it could damage the worldwide campaign for international recognition of the genocide. But Dashnaktsutyun structures in both Armenia and the Diaspora, which are normally supportive of President Robert Kocharian, have dismissed government explanations, saying that Yerevan should stick to a firm stance on Turkey.
The parties’ statement warned that the reconciliation effort could “split the united Armenian front” and “suspend” the recognition process which it said is gaining momentum in the international stage. Turkey, it claimed, is not interested in normalizing ties with Armenia as it continues to deny the genocide and display an “overtly biased position” on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh.
The signatories of the statement also included the Republican Party of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, and the Communist and Orinats Yerkir parties. Two of the parliamentary parties increasingly at odds with the authorities, the People’s Party (HZhK) and National Accord, refused to sign it.
A senior HZhK member, Stepan Zakarian, said the document is too strongly-worded and not substantiated with concrete facts. He told RFE/RL: “Did the commission say that Turkey must participate in the Karabakh negotiations? Did it say that the genocide must be denied? No, it did not.”
The outspoken leader of National Accord, Artashes Geghamian, accused Dashnaktsutyun and the other signatories of “trying to analyze very serious issues in a highly emotional manner.”