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Turkey’s apology to Armenians only a first step

by Cesar Chelala

On April 23, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his condolences to the descendants of the Armenians who were killed by Ottoman troops during World War I — in what many consider to be the first genocide of the 20th century. Although it is an historic apology, Erdogan’s statement is only a first step that should be followed by other measures to restore ties with the Armenian government.

Stating that “The incidents of the First World War are our shared pain,” Erdogan said. “It is our hope and belief that the peoples of an ancient and unique geography, who share similar customs and manners will be able to talk to each other about the past with maturity and to remember together their losses in a decent manner. … And it is with this hope and belief that we wish that the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early 20th century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren.”

Turkey still categorically rejects the term genocide and claims that only 500,000 Armenians died of fighting and starvation in 1915. In 2013, during a trip to Yerevan, the Armenian capital, Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, called the events of 1915-1916 a “mistake” and an “inhuman act.”

However, Armenians want Turkey to recognize the killing of 1.5 million people as genocide.

Armenians’ claims received an unexpected support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During an official visit by Erdogan to Germany in February, Erdogan asked Merkel and her ruling Christian Democratic Union party to be cautious in addressing the upcoming centennial of the 1915 events.

Undaunted by Erdogan’s request Merkel publicly scolded Erdogan: “Turkey must come to terms with its history. We cannot compare the Armenians living in Armenia with the Armenians who were forcibly dispersed around the world.” Erdogan replied, “You are asking us to accept something that we have not done,” adding that the entire Turkish archives are open to the world, an assertion that is not universally accepted.

Also at stake is the opening of Turkey’s border with Armenia. Although Turkey recognized Armenia’s independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, it closed its land border with Armenia in 1993. Turkey has refused to establish diplomatic ties because of Armenia’s occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and part of Azerbaijan during a war in the early 1990s.

Turkey’s government claims that it had overcome a “psychological threshold” during the visit to Armenia by Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. He attended a meeting in Armenia of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, where he underlined the importance of improving relations between the two countries.

During a visit to Armenia I was able to see that many of these psychological scars persist, particularly among the older Armenian generation. Talking to an Armenian businessman who conducts frequent trade with Turkey, he told me, “Every time I look at Mount Ararat I feel like crying.”

Mount Ararat is the national symbol of the Republic of Armenia, which was lost to Turkey in 1915.

My talks with several Armenians of different ages allowed me to conclude that there is a generational divide on how to approach relations with Turkey. The older generation insists that the Turkish government should apologize for the 1915 massacres of Armenians and accept their responsibility in the genocide carried out.

The younger generation, on the other hand, without rejecting historical facts, believe that they should overcome the negative effects of those memories and move forward to peaceful coexistence between both countries.

Erdogan has taken an important first step. It should be complemented by accepting Turkey’s historical responsibility in the Armenian genocide and by the creation of a commission of both Turkish and Armenian historians under the auspices of the United Nations and with representatives from the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

The task of such commission would be to analyze historical documents that can shed light on past events and enable commission members to reach consensus on their significance. It is only by finding out the truth and creating bridges of understanding that we change a paradigm of war for one of peace and progress between both countries.

Cesar Chelala, M.D. and Ph.D., frequently writes on human rights and foreign policy issues. He is a winner of the Overseas Press Club of America Award.

  • Marcus777

    Here is an other paid and delivered article by Armenians Turks did not opoligized or ever will, it is the Armenians should opologize for betraying their host nation first

  • janissary1453

    Armenian Lies “1,5 million killed by Ottoman government”

    Facts

    1922, According to the US State Department, there were 817,873 Armenian refugees from Turkey..There were also over 300,000 Armenian refugees escaping from the Ottoman Empire which were the DRA( nascent The First Republic of Armenia) government’s responsibility.The Ottoman Empire archive document regarding the official census of 1914

    muslim total pop: 14,155,755, second Greeks, third “Armenians total pop: 1,219,323..

    Armenian population(1914) :1,219,323 from official census before 1915

    (1922):817,873 Armenian survivor from Turkey(American state department)

    [Russian Empire:400,000+ Middle East:275,000 +Europe:99,500 + other countries:36,380]

    (1914-1922) : Approximately 300.000 were the DRA government’s responsibility

    Totaly: 1.117.873 armenian survivors after 1915

    1,219,323 (1914) still alive before 1915

    1,117,873 (1922) still alive or not Ottoman’s responsibility

    over 10 million armenian diaspora (2014) still alive

    Have you ever asked yourself why Armenians reject to open their National Archives..Because they want to hide the Truth, they(their russian,french fellows) know Armenians massacred the Turks..They know that they will never get an answer they like.

    Why would French parliamentry pass bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide even though there is no court decision about armenian issue?

    Why are Armenians against openly discussing so called “the Armenian Genocide”‘s veracity?

    If An international court says yes, it is true, that is GENOCIDE We are ready to accept it!.

  • janissary1453

    Both Armenians and Muslims suffered terrible human tragedies, but due to the absence of legal basis and international court’s decision, neither side can claim the deaths among its members to be “more genocidal” than the other’s.

    This year,It is now firmly established by none other than the mighty supreme court of Europe, namely the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, in its December 17, 2013 verdict, that the events of 1915 cannot be proven to be genocide or compared to Jewish Holocaust. European Human Rights Court(ECHR) stated it doubted that there could be a general consensus as to events such as those at issue, given that historical research was by definition open to discussion and a matter of debate.

    In the summer of 1914, Armenian volunteer units were established under the Russian Armed forces. By 1917, when the Russian Caucasus Army disintegrated, there were 110,000–120,000 soldiers of Armenian ethnicity. This number approached to 150,000 for the total Armenians (including other Allied forces) for Near East where opposing to Ottoman forces.

    Source:

    ^ Kayaloff, Jacques The Battle of Sardarabad. Paris: Mouton Publishers,1973, p.73.

    Jump up^ Fridtjof Nansen, Armenia and the Near East (New York, 1976), p. 310.

    Also millions of turks exiled from balkans,caucaus,middle east..thousand of muslim kurd,turk,tatar,abkhazian georgian killed by Armenian hunchak,dashnack terrorist organizations backed by Russian Empire…I can understand how armenians feel..but we live in 21st century..there is an armenian state and turkish state..The only way to overcome grudge to bury our deads..

    Unfortunately armenian hatred against turks triggered Azerbaijan-Armenia war led to over 1 million exiled azeri turks from Nogorno-Karabagh -which is formally part of Azerbaijan still being invaded by Armenia- and The Khojaly massacre was the killing of hundreds of ethnic Azerbaijani civilians from the town of Khojaly in 90′s..Human Rights Watch called the tragedy at the time the largest massacre to date in the conflict..

  • http://armenianholocaustmystory.blogspot.com.tr/ Selma Aslan

    I would like to thank janissary
    1453 for the information he has provided. I would like to add that before ECHR
    verdict of Dec 17, 2013 he has mentioned, Britain could not find any evidence
    to start a case at the end of Malta Tribunals in 1920. In 2003 Court of First
    İnstance of the European Communities said parliamentary decisions can be
    withdrawn or changed and therefore have no legal significance, Genocide is a
    term used for a crime which needs to be judgment of a court. To call a killing
    genocide the intent should be extermination of a group of people which is not
    the case in Armenian-Turkish conflict. The intent was to defend Eastern
    Anatolia. It is very promising to hear the comment above that “The younger
    generation, on the other hand, without rejecting historical facts, believe that
    they should overcome the negative effects of those memories and move forward to
    peaceful coexistence between both countries.” I hope the allegation will
    be left behind and friendship will be reconstituted. Those who want to see
    other side of the coin can visit my blog titled armenianholocaustmystory at
    blogspot.