Turks, Armenians Aim For Dialogue in Washington

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Despite harsh criticism from some figures of the Armenian Diaspora, some reconciliatory Armenians and Turks came together for an event in Washington on Thursday to discuss ways for Turkish-Armenian dialogue.

The event, named, “Armenian-Turkish Reconciliation,” was organized by HasNa, a civil society group that promotes cross-cultural dialogue, with an emphasis on the ideas of late Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who said: “Dialogue is the only solution.”

Relations between Turks and Armenians are tense due to Armenian claims which say up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed in 1915 in a systematic genocide campaign perpetrated under the Ottoman Empire. Turkey categorically rejects the charges, saying the death toll is inflated and that Turks were also killed as Armenians revolted against the Ottoman Empire in collaboration with Russian forces for an independent state in eastern Anatolia.

Ömer Taşpınar, a member of HasNa executive board and an academic at the National War College in Washington delivered a speech at the event, saying that while Armenians suffered a trauma due to the 1915 incidents, Turks suffered a trauma due to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and he called on both Turks and Armenians to avoid acts which will recall their traumas.

He said signals from some Armenians suggesting that they will demand compensation and land from Turkey once their allegations of genocide are accepted strengthen the “perception of a threat” in Turkey. Taşpınar said dialogue can begin first between Turks who are open to accept Armenian claims of genocide and Armenians who do not liken the 1915 incidents to the Holocaust.

Despite his reconciliatory attitude, Taşpınar drew some negative reactions from some Armenians in the audience. One of the Armenian participants questioned why this event was organized close to April 24, when Armenians commemorate the victims of the alleged genocide, while another Armenian participant said the Turkish state does not educate its people about these issues.

Speaking to a group of Turkish journalists, HasNa member Mary Anne Kibarian, an Armenian-American, said she supports dialogue between the peoples of Turkey and Armenia, adding that Turkey’s acceptance of Armenian claims of genocide should be a precondition for this. Kibarian said she receives criticism from some Armenians for her participation.

Harut Sassounian, an Armenian-American, recently spoke to an Armenian weekly magazine and accused Armenians who participate in dialogue meetings with Turks (including the HasNa meeting) of seeking to gain fame or being naïve. He also claimed that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who met with a group of Armenians in Los Angeles during his latest visit to the US, was looking for some “soft” Armenians.

Ali H. Aslan - Today’s Zaman

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