Reconciliation? Committee Holds Meeting in Istanbul

ISTANBUL–(Associated Press–TARC)–Turks and Armenia’s met in Istanbul Tuesday–hoping to encourage a thaw in relations between the two people–who have had little contact amid hostile relations that have lasted almost a century.

It was the first meeting of the so-called Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Committee since the group’s establishment in July. The organization is comprised of Armenian and Turkish academics–politicians and former military officers. None of the members officially represent their countries.

"Reconciliation is a target that is not easily reached," said Ilter Turkmen–a member of the committee and a former Turkish foreign minister. "It is not an easy process. It is not a rapid process–but the first step has been taken."

Turks and Armenia’s said that one of the main points of the four days of meetings this week was simply to introduce the two sides to each other.

"The more contact that takes place … the easier it is to deal with some of the issues that divide us," said Van Z. Krikorian–chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America and a founding member of the reconciliation committee.

But he admitted that there was a "mixed reaction" in the Armenian-American community. Many Armenian-Americans are the descendants of people who fled the violence during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

According to a statement issued by TARC and submitted to Asbarez by the Armenian Assembly of America–which is devoting its resources to publicizing this contentious effort– commission members that were present were–Gunduz Aktan–Alexander Arzoumanian–Ustun Erguder–Sadi Erguvenc–David Hovannissian–Van Z. Krikorian–Andranik Migranian–Ozdem Sanberk–Ilter Turkmen–and Varnik Volkan.

The commission reviewed the sentiment–perceptions–and expectation of Turks and Armenia’s of after its creation–after all they are making this effort for the benefit of these people and not to ask their opinions with undermine the intentions of the commission. The commission participated in a town hall meeting with Turkish civil society to witness the actual response of the Turkish people regarding this commission and possible reconciliation. They assessed the progress the commission has made–they agreed onfuture steps which would be taken to further maximize the probability of reconciliation–and they invited outside experts from all walks of life to present their varying opinions of the group and toward reconciliation.

They also discussed the issue of the media response to the creation of the commission–and they adopted a principle instructing members on how to deal with the media. The members also discussed the lack of an equal amount of Armenian members within the commission and agreed to increase that number. They also discussed the need for the establishment of a TARC secretariat and website.

TARC will have its next meeting in New York in November–where they have invited the Center for Transitional Justice to give a seminar on Legal Issues–and international models of reconciliation. They also discussed the possibility of establishing a working group on the psychological issue of reconciliation.

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