By Emil Danielyan and Karine Kalantarian
The Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) held a two-day meeting in Turkey late last week, failing to end the continuing uncertainty over the future of its activities. Armenian participants of the meeting told RFE/RL on Monday that no agreement was reached on whether its U.S.-backed attempts to improve Turkish Armenian relations should continue.
“We decided that the review of our one-year activities was not complete. So we are going to have to continue that review,” said Van Krikorian, one of the TARC’s four Armenian members and the former chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America.
“We worked pretty hard and there was too much to go over. We did it professionally, but we just didn’t finish,” Krikorian added.
Another Armenian participant, retired diplomat David Hovannisian, agreed, saying that “two days was not enough to carry out a full analytical work” and that the two sides will communicate with each other by phone and e-mail in the coming weeks to try to reach an agreement.
Neither of the two men would speculate on how long the review process will last and whether the TARC will resume its work any time soon. “We don’t even know whether or not the commission will meet again,” Hovannisian explained. “It may be that circumstances will dictate a change in the format of the initiative. Or there may no longer be any need in the TARC’s activities.”
The two-day confidential discussions in the Turkish resort town of Bodrom on July 11-12 were the first official meeting of the TARC since the December statement by its Armenian members accusing their six Turkish counterparts of reneging on their agreements and announcing a freeze in the commission’s activities. They claimed that the Turks, most of them retired government officials, broke an agreement to seek a third-party study on the applicability of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention to the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
It is not clear whether the two sides have settled the dispute or whether it remains the key obstacle to reviving the TARC. “Some of the obstacles are the same, but on a different level,” Krikorian said without elaborating.
Hovannisian, for his part, said only that most issues discussed at Bodrom were related to the Armenian genocide. According to him, the TARC also discussed restoration of medieval Armenian monuments in eastern Turkey as well as establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening of the border between Armenia and Turkey.
Both men claimed that the TARC, which enjoys the strong backing of the U.S. government, did not discuss possible expansion of its membership as a way of reinvigorating the moribund body. The commission’s numerous critics in Armenia and the Diaspora have along argued that its lacks a mandate to make far-reaching decisions on behalf of the Armenians from around the world.