YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Responding to Ankara’s calls for the creation of a Turkish-Armenian commission of historians to look into the events of 1915-1918–Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian denounced the use of fresh excuses to avoid an unconditional normalization of bilateral relations and insisted that its archives are open to Turkish historians willing to research the extermination of over one million Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire.
"If there is a real desire and will to normalize our relations–then excuses become unnecessary," the spokesman’said.
"We want to once and for all state that the reality has long been known to everyone," Gasparian added in a statement. "So let us put aside propaganda and talk frankly."
In a letter to President Robert Kocharian earlier this month–Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that historians from both countries jointly determine if the mass killings and deportations of Ottoman Armenia’s indeed constituted a genocide.
Kocharian responded to Erdogan on Tuesday–effectively rejecting the offer. He said that Ankara should instead drop preconditions for establishing diplomatic relations with Yerevan and opening the Turkish-Armenian border. He also called for the creation of an intergovernmental commission that will tackle all issues of mutual concern.
Erdogan was quick to reject the idea–insisting that the formalization of Turkish-Armenian ties is impossible without an end to the Armenian campaign for international recognition of the Genocide. "There is a very important issue that must be settled before making political decisions–and this issue concerns problems stemming from history," he told reporters in Ankara on Wednesday.
Erdogan–however–appeared less categorical in an interview with the "Milliet" daily published on Friday. "On the one hand–political relations could be established. On the other hand–the work [on the archives] could continue. There is no Chinese Wall between us," he said.
In separate commen’s this week–Erdogan mentioned that the Turkish government would accept any judgment from the proposed commission of historians.
"Let scholars study archive documen’s and if it turns out that we have to question our history–we would do so," he said. He also said that his government has declassified its Ottoman-era archives and urged Armenia to follow suit.
"Our archives have long been open to any researcher from any country," countered Gasparian. "Many foreign scholars have used them to date and none of them was Turkish. If they [Turkish historians] want–they can come and have a look."
The director of Armenia’s National Archives–Amatuni Virabian–gave a similar pledge last February. "I am ready to receive and show them all those genocide-related documen’s that we have," Virabian told a news conference–adding that there are about 12,000 such documen’s. He said they mostly contain information on tens of thousands of genocide survivors who found refuge in Armenia before it was incorporated into Soviet Russia in November 1920.
President George W. Bush–who–once again–refused to use the word "genocide" in his April 24 message to the Armenian community in the United States–praised Erdogan for making the offer. Bush’s stance was hailed by the Turkish Foreign Ministry.