Turkish Commission Threatens Recognition Efforts, Warns ARF Leader

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Official Yerevan will jeopardize recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide by the new U.S. administration if it agrees to a Turkish-Armenian academic study on the subject, a senior member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation warned on Thursday.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has repeatedly assured the influential Armenian-American community that the United States will officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. The outgoing President George W. Bush and his administration have caved into Turkish pressure, working against congressional legislation recognizing the genocide lest it antagonizes Turkey.

“If a commission or subcommission is formed to discuss the genocide issue as a result of Turkey-Armenia negotiations, it is obvious that the recognition of the genocide by Obama or anybody else may be called into question,” Giro Manoyan, the ARF’s political director, told RFE/RL.

“I have no reason to doubt that Obama will fulfill his pledges,” said Manoyan. “He has reaffirmed his stance despite Turkey’s intervention before the U.S. elections.”

Turkey, which denies the genocide, has long been pushing for the formation of a Turkish-Armenian commission of historians to %u218examine’ the history behind the event, a ploy designed to scuttle the genocide’s recognition by more nations and the United States in particular.

Shortly after he took office in April, President Serzh Sarkisian signaled a major shift in this policy, indicating that he is not against the Turkish proposal in principle. In a late September interview with the Turkish daily “Milliyet,” Sarkisian was quoted as saying a commission of historians can be set up if Turkey agrees to establish diplomatic relations and open the border with Armenia. According to the Milliyet, he also made clear that the would-be commission’s findings and recommendations must not be binding for Armenia.

According to Turkish press reports not denied by Armenian officials, the issue was on the agenda of further Turkish-Armenian diplomatic contacts that followed President Abdullah Gul’s September 6 trip to Yerevan. The talks reportedly centered on a joint declaration that would call for the creation of Turkish-Armenian commissions dealing with economic and other issues of mutual interest. Turkish newspapers have said one of those commissions would be made up of historians tasked with studying the “common history” of the two nations and, in particular, the 1915 genocide.

“The Turkish Daily News” reported on October 30 that a group of Turkish historians and other scholars visited Yerevan recently to attend a workshop with their Armenian colleagues that was sponsored by a German non-governmental organization. The paper said participants “analyzed the Turkish-Armenian relations from an academic perspective based on past and present experiences.” It said they plan to meet again soon to “shed light on the experiences of the two peoples over the last century.”

The ARF has indicated its unease over the apparent policy change in Yerevan.

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