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      Turkey’s Prime Minister is Top Publicist for Armenian Genocide

Turkey’s Prime Minister is Top Publicist for Armenian Genocide   26/05/2005

Turkey’s Prime Minister is Top Publicist for Armenian Genocide
 
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Two years ago, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the Prime Minister of
Turkey, he brought a fresh perspective to the country’s many long-standing
domestic and foreign problems, including the Armenian Genocide. Rather than
parroting the worn-out denials uttered by his predecessors, he approached
the demands for the recognition of the genocide issue with caution. He did
not dismiss them off-hand and did not claim that the genocide was “a
baseless allegation.”

Since then, there has been a gradual, unwelcome shift in the attitude of the
Turkish Prime Minister on this issue. Ironically, as the international
pressure on Turkey kept mounting for the recognition of the Armenian
Genocide, and as more and more Turkish scholars and journalists started
calling on their government to face the truth about the extermination of the
Armenians, Mr. Erdogan began to abandon his guarded approach, adopting the
denialist position of his predecessors. He has gone from expressing
uncertainty as what really happened in 1915 to stating that he is confident
that no genocide was committed against the Armenians. Incredibly, Mr.
Erdogan is calling for a commission of historians ostensibly to find out
what actually took place in 1915, while being so sure that absolutely
nothing had happened to the Armenians.

How could one explain such a serious shift in Mr. Erdogan’s position on the
Armenian Genocide? One plausible explanation is that he is caught between
conflicting pressures by the European Union demanding a total overhaul of
the country’s laws and domestic hard-liners who accuse him of making “too
many concessions” to meet the EU requirements. Mr. Erdogan may have wrongly
calculated that he could shore up his domestic support by taking a tough
stand on a number of issues, including the Armenian Genocide, without
alienating the Europeans.

Regardless of Mr. Erdogan’s intentions or actual reasons for his erratic
behavior, one thing is certain: In recent months, he has done more (albeit
inadvertently) to attract the attention of the world to the issue of the
Armenian Genocide than all Armenians in the homeland and the Diaspora put
together. Here is a short list of some of the Prime Minister’s recent
efforts in this regard:

-- He sent a much-publicized letter to Pres. Kocharian last month,
suggesting the formation of a joint Turkish-Armenian commission of
historians to investigate the facts of the Armenian Genocide. Mr. Erdogan
was trying to give the EU the impression that Turkey was making serious
efforts to resolve this issue. To create such a false impression, Mr.
Erdogan eagerly disseminated copies of his letter to many foreign capitals,
including Washington, thereby publicizing worldwide the Armenian Genocide
issue.

-- Mr. Erdogan’s next self-defeating act was the critical comments he made
to the Russian and Polish presidents during a reception in Moscow last month
after their countries’ parliaments had recognized the Armenian Genocide. Mr.
Erdogan’s harsh words probably left a bad impression on both presidents and
reinforced in their minds the significance of the Armenian Genocide issue.

-- In retaliation for Pres. Kocharian’s speech, thanking the countries that
had recognized the Armenian Genocide, Mr. Erdogan reacted by making harsh
remarks on the issue of the Armenian Genocide, during the Council of Europe
Summit held in Warsaw earlier this month. He thus impressed upon the leaders
of 46 European countries, once again, the importance of this issue.

-- Mr. Erdogan then announced that he would launch a major counter-attack
against “the 15 countries” (should be 19) that have recognized the Armenian
Genocide. He announced that the Turkish Parliament would expose the
genocides committed by these countries. He also threatened to sue these
countries in some undetermined court. This would be a momentous development
for the Armenian Cause. For the first time, the Turkish government would be
confronting the entire world, thus truly internationalizing the demands for
the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Should the Turkish Parliament
condemn these 19 countries, they could in turn pass more anti-Turkish
resolutions, after which Turkey could forget about ever joining the European
Union.

To make matters worse for Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan proudly told the
leadership of his political party last week that his top aides had advised
him not to respond to Pres. Kocharian’s remarks on the Armenian Genocide
during the Warsaw Summit. Mr. Erdogan boastfully said that he ignored the
advice of his foreign policy experts and did the exact opposite!

Armenians hope that Mr. Erdogan would continue not to follow the advice of
his top aides and remain in power for a very long time. Should Mr. Erdogan
carry out his threatened lawsuits against these 19 countries, he would be
doing more to globalize the issue of the Armenian Genocide than anything
Armenians have managed to do by themselves in the last 90 years!


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