European Conference On Genocide Makes Turks Uneasy

BRUSSELS (Marmara)–A conference entitled "1999: Armenia’s at the Turn of the Century" sponsored by the European Parliament brought together Armenia’s from 30 countries on Thursday. The two-day conference also addressed the Armenian Genocide–which has irked Turkish leaders complicating an already tense political relations with the European body.

According to the Turkish newspaper Radikal–chairperson of the European Council Gil Roble was not able to attend the first day of the conference to open the meeting–and so instead Foreign Relations Committee chairman Tom Spencer opened the conference. He announced that he is "very proud that the European Council has recognized the Armenian Genocide."

The main purpose of the conference was to discuss the role of Armenia’s in the 21st century.

When speaking about the Armenian Genocide–Spencer said–"We all know what genocide is. What Milosovic is doing in Kosovo is also genocide. We mustn’t forget this."

"Although Turkey will be outraged–the 21st century must the century of revealing and talking about the past," Spencer added.

Also addressing the conference was Alain Destexhe–a Belgian senator–who said that the Armenian genocide was "one of the three genocides" in the 20th century and that its recognition remained complicated by the attitude of Turkey.

"I receive endless brochures from the Turkish Embassy on Turkey’s position on the 1915 Armenian genocide. Turkey’s reluctance to recognize the genocide proves a major problem," he said.

The Turkish government expressed it uneasiness with the conference and warned that it may cause further strains in Turkish-European relations.

Below is an article in the April 30 issue of the Turkish Daily News–which addresses the Turkish concerns:

Ankara Fears Armenian Conference in EP May Further Tarnish Ties

*The Turkish reaction–demonstrated by a letter written by ANAP Istanbul Deputy Bulent Akarcali to EP deputies–comes after the Forum of Armenian Associations organized a two-day conference at the European Parliament’s Brussels premises. The first session is devoted to the question of the Armenian ‘genocide’

BY NAZLAN ERTAN

Brussels–A conference which aims to discuss Armenian "genocide" in the European Parliament has drawn reaction from Ankara on the grounds that a debate on the genocide–which Turkey does not recognize–may further tarnish fragile Turco-EU ties.

The Turkish reaction–demonstrated by a letter written by ANAP Istanbul Deputy Bulent Akarcali to five EP deputies–comes after the Forum of Armenian Associations organized a two-day conference at the European Parliament’s Brussels premises. While the EP is not among the organizers–various Euro-deputies–from Willem Bertens of Holland to Michel Rocard of France–will be attending. Tom Spencer–the scandal-tarnished British deputy–and EP President Jose Maria Gil-Robles are also expected to be among the keynote speakers at the conference.

The conference–entitled "1999; Armenia’s at the Turn of the Century," allocated its Friday session to the theme of "Heritage: Heirs to a Genocide," during which two historians–Yves Ternon (author of the book "Armenian Cause") and Lavrenti Barseghian–director of the Armenian Genocide Museum–will make a presentation.

It is precisely this session that drew the reaction from Akarcali–the co-president of the Turkish-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee. In his letter to the EP deputies–Akarcali maintained that the Turkish nation was facing "a campaign of accusation which was completely unjust."

"As has been observed for some time–the allegations concerning this issue have been diminishing since the inherent realities about the historical events recently started to be understood … The fact that this question has been brought once again onto the agenda of a meeting organized in the heart of the European Parliament has disappointed me considerably," said Akarcali in his letter. "In fact this debate–running the risk of getting out of control–might be harmful at such a point in time when Turkish-EU relations are going through a critical period."

Akarcali–along with his letter–sent a copy of a publication "reconsidering the Turkish position against the Armenian allegations."

"It is my sincere wish that by choosing to adopt a constructive approach–you will contribute to the clearing up of the debate and to the prevention of the abusive use of the term ‘genocide’ while discussing these historical events–during which thousands of Turkish people were slaughtered," he concluded.

The conference follows upon the heels of April 24–which the Armenia’s consider a "day of remembrance" for the victims of the Armenian genocide. The day was marked by demonstrations and commemorations all over Europe–which is home to a 1-million-strong Armenian Diaspora. The demonstrations have been particularly noteworthy in France–whose National Assembly last year approved a bill "recognizing" the Armenian genocide. The ensuing Turkish reaction–however–led the Senate to "bury" the bill–rather than put it on their agenda for debate.

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