By Aza Babayan in Moscow
Turkey renewed on Wednesday its calls for joint Turkish-Armenian academic research of the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, saying that their acceptance by Armenia is a precondition for normalizing relations between the two nations.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Ankara insists on the idea of setting up a commission of Turkish and Armenian historians which was floated by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a letter to President Robert Kocharian last year.
Kocharian effectively turned down the proposal, saying that this and other problems hampering Turkish-Armenian rapprochement should be tackled by the two governments. Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora believe that the 1915-1918 genocide of some 1.5 Armenians in Ottoman Turkey is a proven fact that can not be disputed by historians. Armenian leaders see the Turkish proposal as a ploy to scuttle greater international recognition of the genocide.
“We wish to establish good neighborly relations with Armenia, but there are some political problems,” Gul said, speaking to RFE/RL on the sidelines of a meeting in Moscow of foreign ministers of Black Sea countries. “To solve them, our parliament, our prime minister sent a letter to [the Armenian] president. But unfortunately, we haven’t received a positive response.”
“This is a great opportunity, in fact,” continued Gul. “So many countries are supporting this initiative. I hope that your leadership will think it over again and that we will talk and solve our problems in good faith.”
The initiative has been backed by the United States and some European Union countries. The European Parliament also effectively endorsed it in a September resolution that at the same time reaffirmed the EU legislature’s earlier calls for Turkish recognition of the Armenian genocide.
Gul made no mention of another Turkish precondition for the establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening of the border with Armenia: a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would satisfy Azerbaijan, Turkey’s closest regional ally.
The unresolved conflict seems to have been overshadowed by last month’s approval by France’s parliament of bill making it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide. Ankara has reacted furiously to the move which undermines its strong denial of the genocide. In an October 17 statement, the Turkish parliament said Armenia greatly contributed to the passage of the bill with its “hostile policies against the rights and pride of the Turkish nation.”