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October 1, 2008

ACNIS Explores the Prospects of Armenian-Turkish Relations

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a foreign policy roundtable to consider all aspects of the future of Armenian-Turkish relations. The meeting brought together leading analysts, policy specialists, public and political figures, NGO representatives, members of the press, as well as a group of students and teaching staff from Istanbul’s Bilgi and Fatih Universities who are visiting Yerevan on the invitation of the Civil Society Institute.

Welcoming the audience with opening remarks, ACNIS research coordinator Syuzanna Barseghian underscored the imperative of reaching new agreements, based on mutual interests, toward normalizing Armenian-Turkish relations. “Our current relations are more emotional and less rational and therefore many issues seem irresolvable. And the objective of such discussions is to reveal the whole potential for partnership and its resources which, I believe, can serve toward historical reconciliation and building of the best common future,” Barseghian said.

The day’s first speaker, director Haik Demoyan of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, reflected on the media’s role in the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. According to him, the media coverage of this extremely sensitive topic needs a serious methodological adjustment and it is not a coincidence that certain demands periodically were made of the media as to their method of covering the events of war and genocide. “The media have a great import and specifically in the process of reconciliation. They either can play a negative role and cause problems and hinder the reconciliation process, or be a part of it,” Demoyan maintained. And as case in point, he made note of the compulsion to use quotation marks when using the term genocide and to refer to the Armenian Genocide as “the events of 1915,” the deliberate dissemination of false information, and the taking of comments out of their general context and presenting as separate information.

In his turn, deputy dean Şammas Salur of the Department of Political Science of Istanbul Fatih University looked at the historiographical phases and the changes in the modern historiography of Turkey. “Even though the Turkish-Islamic synthesis in history writing has some canonical views, and especially a staunch defense against the transformation and liberalism in Turkish policy, the 1980s have brought a more dynamic cultural atmosphere to Turkey,” Salur noted, also adding that through serious discussions regarding the talks with the European Union, a new type of history writing is emerging in Turkey. According to the speaker, this new type is more tolerant toward others and—albeit difficult to be accepted by a large part of the public—even accepting of others as equal citizens, “and history writing is evolving toward that end,” Salur argued.

The day’s final speaker, Ambassador Ara Papian, director of the Modus Vivendi Social and Scientific Research Center, delved into the unclaimed pages of Armenian-Turkish relations. He presented those pages against the backdrop of the de jure boundary between Armenia and Turkey that was determined, at the turn of the 20th Century, by US president Woodrow Wilson’s Arbitral Award. As stated by Papian, this document was signed and sealed on November 22, 1920 and officially entitled: “Decision of the President of the United States of America respecting the Frontier between Turkey and Armenia, Access for Armenia to the Sea, and the Demilitarization of Turkish Territory adjacent to the Armenian Frontier.” Pursuant to the Arbitral Award, the title and rights of the Republic of Armenia were recognized on the provinces of Van, Bitlis, Erzerum, and Trebizond of the former Ottoman Empire. “President Wilson’s binding and irreversible Arbitral Award went into force the day it was reached and remains in effect to this day,” Papian asserted.

The roundtable discussants also included students Erman Bakırcı, Emel Güner, and Çağla Gür from the Department of International Relations of Istanbul Bilgi University; students Kevser Kandaz, Ümit Kurt, Mustafa Özdemir, and Zafer Özkan from the Department of International Relations of Istanbul Fatih University; director Artak Kirakosian of the Civil Society Institute; Ruben Mehrabian from the Armenian Center for Political and International Research; coordinator Armen Aghayan of the “Defense of Liberated Territories” social initiative; director-announcer Gayzag Palanjian of “The Road for the Enhancement of Armenia-Diaspora Relations” television program in Los Angeles; journalist Gayane Arustamian; and several others.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2008, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, democratic development, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am ; or visit www.acnis.am.


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