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CONTACT: Joan Ablett

June 12, 2003

(202) 215-4419 / 393-3434


Washington, DC – The Assembly leadership this week told a senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official, who asserted that his government wants to better understand the Armenian Diaspora’s views, that first and foremost, all Armenians are united in their belief that Turkey must deal with the Armenian Genocide.

Held at the request of the Turkish Consulate, the 80-minute meeting Between Board of Directors Chairman Peter Vosbikian, Vice-Chairman Anthony Barsamian and Executive Director Ross Vartian and a senior official from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry Ambassador Ecvet Tezcan, along with Turkish Consul General Omer Onhon took place in New York City late Wednesday afternoon.

The Assembly had agreed to the meeting only if affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish blockade, the mistreatment of the Armenian minority in Turkey and the Nagorno Karabakh peace process were on the agenda. The Assembly has publicly outlined its position on all four issues, noting in particular and frequently, that Turkey’s perpetual denial of the Armenian Genocide paves the way for others to commit similar crimes and that facing the facts of history will allow the Turkish-Armenian relationship to evolve, to the benefit of both peoples.

“We told Ambassador Tezcan that the Diaspora is united in its insistence that Turkey deal with the Armenian Genocide, establish normal relations with Armenia that are not dictated by the Azerbaijani position on Nagorno Karabakh and end its restrictions and pressure on Armenian communal life in Turkey,” said Vosbikian.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Tezcan told the three Assembly Leaders that his mandate from the Turkish Foreign Ministry was to reach out to the Armenian Diaspora, not only in the United States but also in other countries. He said he is charged with learning the Diaspora’s vision for Armenia, discussing the need for normalization of the Armenia-Turkey relationship and establishing dialogue with the Diaspora without preconditions.

“We did not go into this meeting anticipating any breakthrough agreements, just a frank exchange of views. But since Ambassador Tezcan agreed to our agenda conditions, we believe it was an opportunity to put the Armenian case on the table. At minimum, this will prevent Turkey’s friends from using an outright refusal to meet against us in their lobbying on Capitol Hill,” Vosbikian said. “Turkey now needs to validate its dialogue and positive statements with deeds on all of the historic and contemporary questions that comprise the Armenia-Turkey agenda.”

In conversations with other leading Armenian-American organizations, The Assembly learned that a number of them have also met or agreed to meet with Ambassador Tezcan. Earlier this week, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told Yerevan journalists that his first meeting with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul in Madrid last week was “very fruitful.” Similarly, Gul later told Ankara media that he had informed the Armenian Foreign Minister on Turkey’s views about regional problems and “stressed that Turkey wanted to contribute to efforts to find solutions to these problems.”

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.

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