ARF Denies Knowledge of Reconciliation Effort

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian Revolutionary Federation–an influential political party in Armenia and the Diaspora–on Monday denied claims that it had been informed in advance about a non-governmental initiative to improve Turkish-Armenian relations–to which it is strongly opposed.

Two members of the recently formed Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission declared over the weekend that leaders of the nationalist party had been "advised" of the body’s creation shortly before it was officially announced in Geneva on July 10. Van Krikorian–who is the chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America–said they were offered to "meet in person" and receive "factual information" about the effort.

"Instead–the ARF leadership chose to attack first and ask questions later–and has yet to accept our offer to meet," Krikorian told an Armenian-American online news service–Groong.

He and another Armenian member of the commission–Andranik Mihranian–also claimed in a joint interview with Groong that an ARF representative thanked them for the notice but later failed to confirm the tentatively agreed meeting.

However–an ARF spokesman in Yerevan reject that the party–which favors a tough line on Turkey–had any knowledge of the reconciliation effort. "This was not the case," Gegham Manukian told RFE/RL. "ARF was not informed about such a meeting."

The ARF bureau has denounced the commission’s creation–regarding it as a Turkish ploy to "circumvent the issue of Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide."

"Only after Turkey’s recognition of the fact of the Armenian Genocide–a fact that is non-negotiable–can any Armeno-Turkish dialogue be productive," it said in a statement on July 13.

But Krikorian and Mihranian insisted that at least one unnamed member of the bureau knew about several confidential meetings between a group of prominent Armenia’s and Turks which preceded the creation of the commission.

Manukian denied the possibility of the entire party being kept in the dark about the development by one of its leaders. Arguing that most of Armenia’s biggest parties strongly object to the commission–Manukian further dismissed Krikorian’s claim that the ARF and other opponents of the effort are "isolating themselves from the mainstream."

"They are simply trying to artificially expand the circle of people or organizations that support the initiative," he said–referring to the four Armenian members of the commission–including former foreign minister Alexander Arzumanian.

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