Wednesday 12 January 2005, 19:33 Makka Time, 16:33 GMT
As Armenians prepare to mark the 90th anniversary of what they say was a genocide of their people by Ottoman Turkish forces, a leading Turkish historian has called for a multi-national inquiry into what happened.
Armenia says 1.5 million of its people died between 1915 and 1923 on Ottoman territory in a systematic genocide and says the decision to carry it out was taken by the political party then in power in Istanbul, popularly known as the Young Turks.
Ankara denies genocide, saying the Armenians were victims of a partisan war during the first world war, which also claimed many Muslim Turkish lives.
Turkey accuses Armenians of carrying out massacres while siding with invading Russian troops.
“I think we historians, Turkish, American, French, British and Armenian, must come together and form a commission to investigate this issue objectively,” Yusuf Halacoglu, head of the Turkish Historical Society, said on Wednesday.
Halacoglu, who endorses the mainstream Turkish view of the events and rejects the genocide claims, said setting scholars to work together was all the more important for his country because the genocide issue threatened to complicate Turkey’s entry talks with the European Union.
The genocide issue might
complicate Turkey’s EU entry
The European Parliament and France, home to Europe’s largest Armenian community, have both urged Turkey to recognise the killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as genocide.
Armenians this year mark the 90th anniversary of the events on 24 April and Turkey is to start EU entry talks on 3 October
Halacoglu said the commission would ideally work under the auspices of the United Nations or another international body to help ensure impartiality and to encourage all states concerned to open up their archives to the panel.
He was due to discuss his research on the period on Wednesday with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and said he hoped for official Turkish backing for a commission.