By Lilit Harutiunian
Nearly 300 Armenian intellectuals and other public figures have appealed to Turkey to acknowledge that the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide, saying that is a necessary condition for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation.
In an open letter to Turkish President Abdullah Gul made public on Tuesday, they said modern-day Turkey bears “hereditary responsibility” for what they consider an “monumental crime against humanity.”
“Genocide is a crime against humanity and present civilization values, and no individual, organization or even state authority can cast doubt on what happened,” the letter said, challenging Ankara’s vehement denial of any government policy to exterminate Ottoman Turkey’s Armenian population.
“Your generation of Turkish leaders must accept the undeniable truth and recognize the fact of the Armenian Genocide … Only in that case can there be a sincere dialogue and a process of real reconciliation between our peoples,” it said.
The letter was apparently initiated by prominent writers, musicians and artists close to Armenia’s ruling establishment, suggesting that it was approved by President Serzh Sarkisian. The latter has been instrumental in an unprecedented thaw in Turkish-Armenian relations observed in recent months. Sarkisian has won plaudits in the West for inviting Gul to visit Yerevan and watch with him a September match between Armenia’s and Turkey’s national soccer teams.
The so-called “football diplomacy” was followed by a series of further negotiations between the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers. It is still not clear, however, whether Ankara is ready to normalize relations with Yerevan before a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The unprecedented open letter to Gul was welcomed on Tuesday by Giro Manoyan, a leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a junior partner in the ruling coalition that has watched with unease Sarkisian’s diplomatic overtures to the Turks. “I think this letter is significant in the sense that it originated from Armenia and clearly reflects our public’s view that it is impossible to evade the issue of genocide recognition,” Manoyan told reporters.
Dashnaktsutyun’s top governing body urged the Sarkisian administration last week to exercise caution in the ongoing rapprochement with Turkey, saying that Ankara is using it to scuttle recognition of the Armenian genocide by more countries, notably the United States.