TARC ‘Not Dead ‘ Sources Close to Effort Indicate

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–ArmInfo)–Members of the controversial Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) are maintaining unofficial contacts in a last-ditch attempt to salvage the US-backed initiative which all but collapsed in December–it was claimed on Friday.

"I would say that neither the TARC process nor TARC itself is dead," a source close to the commission told RFE/RL. "Officially the status hasn’t changed–but unofficially the contacts have continued and the process is going on."

The source–which preferred to remain anonymous–said the two sides are "making some progress" and will soon take a final decision on the fate of the effort.

The TARC’s four Armenian members said in a statement on December 11 that the private panel "is not going to proceed" because their Turkish colleagues "unilaterally" told a New York-based human rights organization not to conduct a study on whether the 1948 UN Genocide Convention is applicable to the 1915 Armenian massacres. The decision to request such an analysis from the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) was taken at a TARC meeting in New York in late November. It was seen as an important element of the reconciliation effort launched in July after months of confidential negotiation.

One of the commission’s six Turkish members has blamed the row on unintentional "misunderstandings" and "technicalities." Ustun Erguder–who runs a private think tank in Istanbul–told RFE/RL in January that the initiative "can be salvaged."

The TARC source said on Friday that the controversy over the planned ICTJ study remains "the most difficult problem to overcome," adding that the Armenia’s are ready to show some flexibility on the issue. However–one of them–Moscow-based political scientist Andranik Migranian–was quoted on Friday by the A1 Plus television in Yerevan as saying that the reconciliation effort will not move forward without such a study.

Mihranian and other Armenian participants have suggested previously that the Turks–most of them retired top diplomats–backtracked on the New York agreement after strong objections voiced by official Ankara which denies that the mass killings and deportations of Armenia’s were a genocide.

The source said the commission could resume its activities "with a new name."Alternatively–the Armenian members may do nothing and may leave it where it ended and walk away. But the process will continue. We need to have more Armenia’s contacting with more Turks."

The source claimed that the TARC’s activities–harshly criticized by many political groups in Armenia and its Diaspora–have already prompted "additional contacts between Armenia’s and Turks."There are now more contacts between Armenia’s and Turks than there ever used to be. In some things the commission has a direct hand–in some it doesn’t. There is a lot of things going on."

Last month Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian announced that Ankara and Yerevan–which have no diplomatic relations–may soon launch direct talks to discussproblems hampering normalization of bilateral ties. The commen’s came after Oskanian’s meeting in New York with Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem. The Armenian official told RFE/RL that the meeting will have "a continuation in the near future."

Meanwhile–according to ArmInfor news agency–the former executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America Ross Vartian said the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation commission will no longer continue its activity

According to him–this was brought about by the non-constructive activity of the Turkish representatives on the commission and the inactivity of the Turkish government–the Assembly press service says. Speaking of the Armenian representatives’ declaration of their unwillingness to take part in the work of the commission–Ross Vartian stressed that the Assembly supports this decision.

The Turkish-Armenian reconciliation commission temporarily stopped its work in December of last year–after the Turkish side unilaterally asked the International Centre for Transitional Justice not to discuss the issue of the conformity of the events of 1915 in Ottoman Turkey to the 1948 UN convention on genocide. Previously both sides made a joint statement to the centre asking them to examine the issue.

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