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awol: 2. Groups Reveal Acceptance of Turkish Request For Private Meetings

The Armenian Weekly On-Line: AWOL

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NEW YORK–The Turkish Embassy and Turkish Consulates in the United
States recently contacted various Armenian organizations in the US to
arrange private meetings with Ambassador Ecvet Tezcan, who represents
Turkey’s foreign policy and intelligence gathering agencies.

Despite caution expressed by the Armenian Embassy and the ARF, several
individuals and Armenian organizations decided to hold separate
meetings with the Turkish Ambassador last week. These included the
Armenian Assembly of America, the ADL Ramgavar Party, the AGBU, and
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian from the Eastern Diocese. Additional
meetings may have also been held in Washington and Los Angeles.

In a statement to the Armenian-American community, the ARF Eastern US
Central Committee immediately identified the move as “a new offensive”
for Turkey to avoid its responsibilities regarding the Armenian
Genocide. “In their latest ploy, Turkish diplomats have requested, on
short notice, to meet individually with various Armenian-American
organizations and institutions to discuss an unspecified agenda. While
at first glance this might be viewed as an encouraging development, the
circumstances under which these meetings are being organized are highly
suspicious,” began the statement.

“The timing and manner of this call to ‘dialogue,’ as well as recent
experience with the so-called Turkish Armenian Reconciliation
Commission, tends to reveal Turkey’s true intentions,” added the ARF
Central Committee. “This latest foray is a disingenuous attempt to
demonstrate to US and European policymakers that Turkey is engaging
with Armenians in order to resolve the Genocide issue. Its purpose is
not real dialogue, but an effort to derail the recent progress made in
the US and Europe regarding the Armenian Genocide.”

The statement adds that the meetings serve Turkey’s interest in
dividing the Armenian-American community, concluding that “It is
essential that we all recognize these false overtures as an attack on
our recent success regarding the Armenian Genocide. We must not be
fooled by Turkey’s latest effort to prevent real progress and dialogue
from occurring.”

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) also called on the
major Armenian-American organizations to resist efforts by the Turkish
government to manipulate the community and undermine recent progress
toward US recognition of the Genocide. In a June 6 letter to community
leaders, ANCA Chairman Kenneth V. Hachikian explained that, “The
purpose of this effort is to deceive the US political community into
believing that a ‘direct dialogue with Armenians’ is currently in
process. The specific intent of this effort is to derail our
community’s most recent progress in the US Congress toward recognition
of the Armenian Genocide.”

The ANCA letter indicated several developments related to the timing of
this latest initiative by the Turkish government. “It comes in the wake
of the unanimous approval, on May 21, of the Genocide Resolution
(H.Res. 193) by the US House Judiciary Committee; it follows the
success of the ANC of Europe in securing, on June 5, a series of
sharply critical amendments in the European Parliament’s report
(Oostlander report) on Turkey’s application for membership to the
European Union; and it is rooted in Turkey’s fear of the implications
of the growing strains in the US-Turkish relationship following its
refusal to allow coalition forces to open a northern front in the war
on Iraq,” continued the letter.

“This Turkish government effort is the product of the same political
forces, uses similar methods, and seeks to accomplish the identical
aims as the failed Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC).
Like TARC, it is designed to create the artificial impression of a lack
of unanimity among Armenian-Americans regarding the Armenian Genocide.
More specifically, it seeks to buy time, delaying consideration of the
Genocide Resolution until the Turkish government, aided by its
lobbyists, has had time to repair the damage to its relations with the
US,” wrote the ANCA.

The ANCA strongly urged the leadership of the major Armenian-American
organizations to remain vigilant against such transparent Turkish
initiatives aimed at manipulating the community and blocking progress
toward the recognition of the Genocide. “Any meetings with a Turkish
government operative at this level will be used to undermine our
Genocide recognition efforts in Congress. As such, we recommend that
your organization not facilitate such efforts by agreeing to be part of
these discussions,” concluded the letter.

In a second letter, the ANCA revealed that Ambassador Tezcan is a
senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official–from the Directorate of
Intelligence and Research–whose record includes aggressive Genocide
denial, contrived charges of an Armenian genocide against Turks, and
even Turkish and Azeri land claims on the Republic of Armenia.

“We stand on the principle that the very existence of such meetings, in
the absence of full Turkish acknowledgment and acceptance of
responsibility for the Armenian Genocide, will only serve the Turkish
government’s campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide. We believe that it
would be a very serious mistake to accept the invitation to meet with
this senior Turkish official,” wrote Hachikian. “Turkey is, very simply
and transparently, trying to use the presence of Armenian-Americans at
these meetings as props in a staged effort to mislead the US policy
community into believing that Armenian Genocide recognition efforts are
unnecessary in light of its ongoing ‘direct dialogue with Armenians.'”

A spokesman for the Armenian Embassy in Washington did not wish to
comment on the Turkish government’s request to meet with the Armenian-
American organizations. “Nevertheless, as a matter of policy, the
Government of Armenia has always viewed interstate dialogue with the
Turkish government as the principal way to address bilateral relations
between Turkey and Armenia,” stated Assistant to the Ambassador Haik
Gugarats. He pointed out that Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian
recently met with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in Madrid.

The Armenian Assembly of America, on the other hand, told the Turks
that it would agree to meet with Ambassador Tezcan if he agreed to
discuss the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Turkish-Armenia
relations and the absence of full diplomatic relations and open
borders, the Nagorno Karabagh peace process, and the treatment of the
Armenian minority in Turkey.

In response to the proposal to discuss the Karabagh peace process with
the Turkish Ambassador, the Embassy spokesperson stated that the peace
process “is best discussed in its current format, between the
presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and their representatives under
the auspices of OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs–the United States, Russia,
and France–as these participants are best suited to discuss the
complex issues of the peaceful settlement.”

On June 11, Ambassador Tezcan and Turkish Consul General Omer Onhon met
for 80-minutes with Armenian Assembly Board of Directors Chairman Peter
Vosbikian, Vice-Chairman Anthony Barsamian, and Executive Director Ross
Vartian in New York. “Since Ambassador Tezcan agreed to our agenda
conditions, we believe it was an opportunity to put the Armenian case
on the table,” stated Vosbikian about the private meeting.

“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 Azeri
position on Nagorno Karabagh, and end its restrictions and pressure on
Armenian communal life in Turkey,” reported the Armenian Assembly in a
press release about the meting.

Ambassador Tezcan told them 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 told the Armenian
Assembly that 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

According to a June 12 press release, the ADL District Committee of the
Eastern US and Canada “decided to respond positively to the
invitation.” In a June 14 editorial, the Ramgavar’s Armenian Mirror-
Spectator newspaper claimed that the Turkish diplomatic initiative “has
caught the Armenian leadership off guard…again,” noting that “some
groups have already met with the refined diplomat and others are
waiting in line.” The ADL argued that the recent Turkish demand that
Armenia “renounce territorial claims over Turkey” was “welcome news,”
because the territorial claims “cannot be achieved anyway.”

The unnamed representatives of the ADL Ramgavar Party in the US met
with the Turkish diplomats on June 11 at the offices of the Turkish
Mission in New York. According to an article in the Mirror-Spectator,
ADL Central Committee member Edmond Azadian said the previous day that
“we (Armenians) are the weaker party, and we cannot dictate the
agenda.” In its press release after the meeting, the ADL wrote, “The
meeting was held on an open agenda, all the while assuming that a first
such contact could not produce a meeting of minds,” adding that “they
had accepted the invitation to hear what had motivated the Ambassador
to undertake such a daring mission.”

According to the ADL account, Ambassador Tezcan stated that “in light
of Turkey’s possible accession to the European Union and on the eve of
delicate negotiations with the government of the Republic of Armenia,
he wished to listen first-hand to the positions of diasporan
Armenians.” The press release added that the ADL representatives
“outlined their positions” on the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish
blockade of Armenia, the Karabagh peace process, the plight of the
Armenian community in Turkey, and the condition of architectural
monuments in what is now eastern Turkey. Although the Armenian Assembly
and the ADL discussed nearly identical agenda items, neither group
specified what positions they presented on these issues.

It was also reported that Ambassador Tezcan met separately in New York
with Archbishop Barsamian, the Primate of the Eastern Diocese, and
Berge Setrakian, the president of the AGBU, on June 9, but the details
of the meetings were not made available to the public. He may have also
met with organizations and individuals in Washington and Los Angeles
during his visit to the US last week.

“I don’t think that the Turkish representative will have much success
in initiating meaningful dialogue,” California State University
Professor Matthew Jendian told the Fresno Bee. “The motivation for his
seeking dialogue is extremely suspect.”

“I don’t see any chance at success,” Barlow Der Mugrdechian, lecturer
in Armenian Studies at Fresno State, said of the effort. “No individual
or group can speak for all Armenians. Therefore, dialogue is not a
possibility until Turkey recognizes the Armenian Genocide.”

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