TARC Disbands Saying Goals Accomplished

PLANS "TURKISH-ARMENIAN RAPPROCHEMENT AND RECONCILIATION" CONFERENCE–AS WELL AS TURKISH ARMENIAN CONSULTATIVE GROUP

[Excerpts]

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) said on Wednesday that it has achieved its main objectives and is disbanding.

The announcement came after a three-day meeting in Moscow between three Turkish and four Armenian members of TARC.

"TARC is announcing that its work as a commission is ending," they said in a statement obtained by RFE/RL. "TARC’s term was to be one year–but the course of events required a longer period to accomplish our goals.

"We feel that advances in civil society contacts are now permanent and will only grow in time. We also feel that beyond our recommendations–official relations can now best be continued and advanced independent of the TARC structure."

The commission–which was set up in July 2001 with close US State Department involvement–finished its work by approving a set of "recommendations" to the governmen’s of Turkey and Armenia on how to improve their strained relations. Their content was not disclosed.

"The recommendations have a better chance of being implemented if they are presented privately," one commission source told RFE/RL. He said it will be up to the two governmen’s to decide whether they should be made public.

TARC is likely to have reaffirmed its strong support for the unconditional reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border sealed by Ankara eleven years ago out of solidarity with Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan.

It is unclear whether TARC recommendations address the 1915 genocide of Armenia’s by the Ottoman Government.

TARC also announced plans to hold a big conference on "Turkish-Armenian rapprochement and reconciliation" this fall. "In addition–we intend to support a Turkish Armenian consultative group which would meet at least annually to exchange views–review progress–and recommend actions to promote improved relations," the statement said.

TARC has faced strong criticism from groups in Armenia and especially the Diaspora for hampering the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

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