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Opposition representative expounds on Turkish-Armenian relations

20 May 2011 [12:11] - TODAY.AZ
Turkey’s main opposition’s foreign policy specialist and former Ambassador Osman Korutürk has criticized the government’s policies toward Armenia while reiterating his party’s election promises following his visits to the religious leaders of Turkey’s Armenian, Greek, Syriac and Jewish minorities this week.

"The painful [events of 1915] were reciprocal; we need to talk tete a tete [with the Armenians.] The diaspora claims they were the only ones to suffer; the pain of the Muslim Turks needs to also be recognized. We can move forward if we dress our wounds and leave the past to historians. Even the Germans and Jews have managed to overcome all this. Why shouldn’t we?" asked Korutürk from the Republican People’s Party, or CHP. He added that they wanted good relations with Turkey’s neighbors and signaled the possibility of reinvigorating the issue of Turkey’s closed border with Armenia.

Korutürk also said significant mistakes were committed in regards to the Interior Ministry’s decision to appoint Aram Ateşyan as the acting deputy patriarch of the Armenian church. The CHP representative said the spirit of the Lausanne Treaty should have been followed in this regard.

Patriarch Mesrop II was diagnosed with "frontal demans" in 2007 and is no longer capable of fulfilling his duties due to health reasons. The Interior Ministry then chose to appoint Ateşyan as his deputy despite protests from within the Armenian community.  

"The AKP began its Armenia initiative with an inappropriate partner under inappropriate circumstances. Consider the fact that anyone who says there was no genocide gets punished in Switzerland, which is the mediating country," said Korutürk, who also accused the AKP of failing in its Kurdish Initiative as well.

"The AKP failed to act in coordination. Azerbaijan was not kept sufficiently informed ... The Karabagh problem requires many years to be resolved, just like the Cyprus problem. When they received negative reactions from Azerbaijan, the AKP took a wrong turn and pushed forth the issue of Karabagh, [as a result of which] the process lost its momentum. If things were coordinated with Azerbaijan and [Azerbaijan] was kept sufficiently informed, all this would not have happened," said Korutürk, referring to the protocols initialized in 2009 between Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations.

Korutürk said if Turkey wants to be a powerful player in the region, then it must develop consistent dialogue with its neighbors. The CHP representative noted that Armenia conducts a significant portion of its trade through neighboring Iran and Georgia, and added that Turkey is still Armenia’s second largest export market despite the closed borders. All the benefit from this trade, however, go to Iran and Georgia, said Korutürk.

"We see everyone as equal Turkish citizens. The distance [of minority communities] toward the CHP must be emanating from certain problems that occurred during the single-party period," said Korutürk, who also urged minority communities to become more engaged in politics.

Korutürk also reiterated CHP’s election promises, including removing the 10 percent election threshold that prevents smaller parties from entering the parliament and the foundation of a special commission to elucidate unresolved political murders. Korutürk also promised to pave the way for people to be able to learn in their mother tongues, as well as recognition of representation rights for Kurds. Korutürk further claimed that the infamous Diyarbakır Prison, the site of gruesome torture sessions that allegedly took place during Turkey’s 1980 coup, was going to be turned into a Human Rights Museum if the CHP came to power.

/Hurriyet Daily News/

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