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Turkish-Armenian Council works hard for rapprochement

Turkish-Armenian Council works hard for rapprochement

Selcuk Gultasli

Ankara – Turkish Daily News

The Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council is seeking ways to increase trade between Turkey and Armenia to assist in the process of finding peaceful solutions to the historic problems between the two nations. Council members had paid a four-day visit to Armenia in the beginning of December to give a new impetus to commercial relations which were lying dormant. The council, founded in May 1997, aims to bridge the gap left by the bitter enmity between Turkey and Armenia.

In an exclusive interview with the Turkish Daily News, the co-chairman of the council, Kaan Soyak, said that their delegation had talks with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, the prime minister and many high-ranking officials during their visit. “It is very clear that Armenia wants to have warm and friendly relations with Turkey. My impression is that we could benefit from improved relations not only bilaterally but in the United States, Russia and the former Soviet republics too. The Armenian lobby is quite strong in the United States and Russia. We can find a way to gain mutual benefits,” said Soyak. Soyak stated that he had received signals from Turkish officials to the effect that Ankara was willing to have good and neighborly relations with Yerevan as well.

Soyak said that the council, together with its other co-chairman, Arsen Ghazarian in Yerevan, has been making great efforts for the last two years, particularly among the diaspora Armenians in the United States. He declared that they had met with almost every Armenian lobby and interest group in the United States, including the most anti-Turkish radical groups. Soyak said the council aims to mobilize the strong Armenian lobby in the United States in the interests of both Turkey and Armenia.

Asked about the century-old disputes and Turkey’s precondition for a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict before any rapprochement can start, Soyak said although the organization was a business council, it nevertheless works hard to contribute to a resolution of the disputes. “From my meetings with Armenian officials, I got the impression that the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute has been earmarked for reconciliation. They might agree on some sort of settlement in the not-too-distant future. But the issue here is to convince the public of the need for a real, sustainable and lasting peace in the region,” said Soyak.

“The hardest issue is, of course, the Armenian allegations of genocide,” said Soyak. Emphasizing that there was an urgent need for a joint history commission to look into archives and to find out what actually happened, Soyak stated that they support the plan for a joint declaration after the historical facts are established by the commission. “We proposed to both sides that a commission be set up to carry out research into the historical claims. The commission would consist of Armenian and Turkish historians who will go through the Ottoman, British, German and Russian archives and prepare a report on the allegations,” stated Soyak. He further pointed out that the Armenian side had welcomed the idea and that the Turks had not yet rejected it.

The council asks the Armenian side not to bring the issue before the parliaments of various European countries since this might escalate tensions again.

Kaan Soyak is currently on a U.S. tour where he will meet American Turks and Armenians to gather support for the bid to start a rapprochement between the two nations.

News Source:  Turkish Daily News Turkish / 11 December ,1999

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