By Emil Danielyan
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) admitted on Tuesday that it had been informed about the creation of the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation commission just hours before the news was publicized. It said it even came into contact with some members of the body afterwards. But the influential nationalist party continued to deny any knowledge of a series of confidential meetings that had preceded the July 9 official announcement of the controversial initiative, to which it is fiercely opposed.
In a weekend interview with the Groong online news service, two members of the commission -- Armenian Assembly of American chairman Van Krikorian and a prominent member of Russia’s ethnic Armenian community, Andranik Migranian, --said Dashnak leaders were offered to “meet in person” and receive “factual information” about the effort. But the party later cancelled the tentatively agreed meeting, they claimed. A senior member of Dashnaktsutyun’s organization in Armenia, Gegham Manukian dismissed the information as untrue on Monday, saying that the Armenian members of the commission are seeking to legitimize their activities.
However, a spokesman for Dashnaktsutyun’s worldwide governing Bureau, Giro Manoyan, acknowledged the next day that the party was offered a meeting. Speaking to RFE/RL, Manoyan said the offer came from a person representing an unspecified Armenian organization close to the commission. He argued that the meeting “did not become possible” because the party was told about the initiative at a very short notice.
Manoyan also revealed that the Bureau, which manages Dashnak branches in Armenia and major Diaspora communities, on Sunday received another proposal from the same source notifying that it “remains receptive to meeting us.” He claimed that Dashnaktsutyun has in the meantime arranged and held meetings with some of the four Armenian commission members through different channels. He refused to give details.
But a reliable source close to the commission, set up with the stated aim of improving Turkish-Armenian relations, cast doubt on the possibility of meetings between its members and Dashnak representatives. “Seeing someone on the street or at a reception does not constitute a ‘meeting,’” the source, which asked not to be identified, told RFE/RL. “These guys just don’t want to know facts, they just want to attack.”
Dashnaktsutyun, which is particularly influential in the Diaspora, has been at the forefront of a campaign against what it views as an “adventuristic undertaking” masterminded by Ankara in a bid to thwart international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide. “Only after Turkey’s recognition of the fact of the Armenian Genocide, a fact that is non-negotiable, can any Armeno-Turkish dialogue be productive,” its Yerevan-based Bureau said in a statement on July 13. The party, which has been largely supportive of President Robert Kocharian, was instrumental in the release last month of a joint statement by Armenia’s leading political groups expressing concern about the initiative.
Manoyan said Dashnaktsutyun, which has demanded that official Yerevan avoid any involvement in the commission’s work, formulated its position on the issue after the confidential meetings with commission members. He categorically denied Krikorian’s and Migranian’s statement that at least one unnamed member of the Bureau knew about several confidential meetings between a group of prominent Armenians and Turks in the months leading to the commission’s creation.