CAMBRIDGE–(Armenian Weekly) David Phillips–the moderator of the so-called Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission and Deputy Director of the Council on Foreign Relations Center for Preventive Action–was invited for an October 31 seminar on the "Armenian Turkish Reconciliation Effort" by the Harvard University Study Group on Modern Turkey. Like the secretive TARC negotiations between certain Turks and Armenia’s last year–Phillips announced that his remarks were ‘off the record.’ Approximately 50 people were present at the event.
One source present at the seminar said that Phillips and the TARC group feared the reaction of the Turkish community when the secretive negotiations were officially revealed in the New York Times in July 2001–but they were surprised when the majority of the opposition to the group came from the Armenian community. Since it was apparent from the beginning that the Armenian participants in TARC did not represent the Armenian community or the government–it appears that Phillips and the Turkish side may have been misled by the ineptitude of the Armenian participants.
The negative reaction to the group was especially evident in the pages of the Armenian Weekly–which published over 150 letters–articles–and editorials about the commission. Nearly all of the views from around the world opposed the self-appointed group–which refused to address the issue of the Armenian Genocide in secretive talks on Armeno-Turkish relations moderated by Phillips. It was later found that the group was funded by the US State Department to circumvent efforts to encourage Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
In the Armenian community–TARC found support mainly from the Washington-based Armenian Assembly of America–whose chairman at the time–Van Krikorian–was one of four Armenia’s in the group. The other six members of TARC were former Turkish diplomats–all well-versed in Genocide denial. Although a February 2001 article in the New York Times quoted an Armenian government spokesperson as acknowledging secretive talks between Turks and Armenia’s–the Armenian government claimed to have no knowledge of the TARC group. One source said Phillips was surprised that the Armenian government denied any knowledge of TARC–since it was aware of TARC’s activities.
Although the Armenian members of TARC withdrew from the group with a formal statement in December 2001–a source at the seminar noted that Phillips attempted to argue that TARC led to some "small victories," leading to improved dialogue and relations between Turkey and Armenia–although no progress has been registered on the issue of recognition of the Armenian Genocide since TARC’s inception.
Another source present at the seminar said Phillips seemed almost disappointed that the press had reported that TARC was "dead," and he assured those in attendance that the group was still meeting privately. The source also said Phillips revealed that many parallel activities–such as cultural programs and exchanges between journalists–were part of the TARC agenda.
Yet another source also said that Phillips referred repeatedly to "what the Armenia’s call the Armenian Genocide," using this qualifier to signify that there is no historical consensus on the issue and denigrating Armenian claims.