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Assembly Tells Turks `Genocide First or No Discussion´ as Ambassador Requests Meeting With Major Armenian-American Organizations

The Armenian Assembly of America

122 C Street, NW, Ste. 350

Washington, DC 20001

Telephone: 202/393-3434, Ext. 222

Fax: 202/638-4904

E-mail:jablett@aaainc.org

Web site: www.aaainc.org

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 5, 2003

CONTACT: Joan Ablett

E-mail: jablett@aaainc.org

ASSEMBLY TELLS TURKS “GENOCIDE FIRST OR NO DISCUSSION” AS AMBASSADOR
REQUESTS MEETING WITH MAJOR ARMENIAN-AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS

Washington, DC – The Assembly today told Turkish Consul General Omer Onhon
that if affirmation of the Armenian Genocide was on the agenda, its
leadership would agree to his request for a meeting with Turkish Ambassador
Ecvet Tezcan. The Assembly added that the following items would also have
to be included on the agenda, if such a meeting were to take place: Turkish
blockade, the mistreatment of the Armenian minority in Turkey and the
Nagorno Karabakh peace process.

“If the Turkish Ambassador wants to talk about core Armenian issues,
starting with the Genocide, we’ll meet. If not, we won’t. It’s that
simple,” said Board of Directors Chairman Peter Vosbikian. “We need to
seize every opportunity to tell the Turks directly that all Armenians,
wherever we may live, are united on these core issues, starting with
Genocide affirmation.”

In conversations with other leading Armenian-American organizations, the
Assembly learned that several have also been asked to meet with Ambassador
Tezcan and they are considering that request. The Assembly has forwarded a
copy of its response to the Turkish Consul General, which includes its
agenda requirements, to those organizations.

“If Armenians always refuse to talk directly to the Turks, no matter what
the opportunity, it will certainly be used against us in Washington. It is a
given in American policy and that of interested third parties, that disputes
be addressed through face-to-face meetings. As recently as last week,
Armenia’s Foreign Minister held talks with his Turkish counterpart in
Spain,” Vosbikian added.

The request for a meeting comes on the eve of the introduction of a Genocide
Resolution in the Senate, a move the Assembly has long advocated. Senators
John Ensign (R-NV) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ), along with 12 co-sponsors, are
expected to introduce a resolution early next week commemorating the 15th
anniversary of the U.S. implementation of the Genocide Convention. Echoing
a similar resolution in the House of Representatives, it also commends the
principled stand taken by the U.S. in 1988 when it became a full party to
the convention. The House resolution recently won bi-partisan support from
the powerful Judiciary Committee. The Armenian Genocide is invoked in the
resolution as an example of man’s inhumanity to man.

“Why would any Armenian organization refuse an opportunity to present our
case directly to the Turks? We don’t need to give Turkish lobbyists the
ammunition of being able to tell Senators next week that the
Armenian-American community refused an offer to meet with a Turkish diplomat
to discuss the issues that currently divide us,” Vosbikian continued.

“On the eve of the Senate’s action – one we strongly and publicly endorse –
we need to show Washington that we have not ignored, out of hand, an
opportunity for direct exchange with a senior official from Ankara. I
reiterate – should such a meeting take place, we will not talk about whether
the Armenian Genocide took place but about the damage Turkish denial has
done not only to Armenians, but to the Turkish people and to the
U.S.-Turkish relationship. To forestall any misrepresentation by the Turks,
particularly to Capitol Hill, we will publicly report in depth the record of
any such meeting,” Vosbikian said.

If the Turkish Ambassador agrees to the Assembly demands, Board of Directors
Chairman Peter Vosbikian, Vice-Chairman Anthony Barsamian and Executive
Director Ross Vartian will meet with him either in New York or Washington,
DC.

Upon receiving the request from the Turkish Consul General, the Assembly
immediately contacted major Armenian-American organizations with its interim
response to the Turks. That response is attached.

The Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide
organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian
issues. It is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

###

NR#2003-063

Editors’ Note: The Assembly’s Memo to the Turkish Consul General follows:


MEMO

TO: Consul General Omer Onhon, Republic of Turkey

FROM: Ross Vartian

RE: Proposed Meeting

DATE: 6/6/03

Thank you for contacting the Assembly regarding the meeting requested by
Ambassador Tezcan for either New York or Washington. I have conferred with
the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Assembly’s Board of Directors and
advise that the Assembly will raise the following agenda items during the
proposed meeting:

1- Affirmation of the Armenian Genocide

2- Turkey/Armenia Relations including the absence of full diplomatic
relations and open borders

3- The Nagorno Karabakh Peace Process

4- Treatment of the Armenian Minority in Turkey

Should this be acceptable, Chairman Vosbikian, Vice-Chairman Barsamian and I
look forward to meeting with Ambassador Tezcan at a mutually convenient day
and time according to the schedule we discussed.

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