Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The biggest news no one cares about

I think I should make this an ongoing feature on my blog. I keep running across stories that to me seem huge but for some reason get somewhat overlooked by the media.

In particular, today's story, about the 90th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide (following right on the footsteps of the 90th anniversary commemoration of Gallipoli) offers hope for renewed relations between Turkey and Armenia.

According to the article, Robert Kocharian, president of Armenia, "responded with 'let us meet without any pre-conditions' to the suggestion of "establishing a joint commission of historians and other experts" made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the so-called Armenian allegations."

This is huge. The Armenians and the Turks have been unwilling to compromise on the definition of Turkish actions against the Armenians. The Armenians see it as genocide, while the Turks strongly deny its genocidal nature. The tensions between Armenia and Turkey have been centered on this issue for decades.

Of course, the article is from a Turkish paper, and if the Turkish press continues to use language such as "the so-called Armenian allegations," nothing will ever come of discussions.

It is time that Turkey face the unpleasant historical reality of its actions, and while this first step may not lead to any real acknowledgment on the part of the Turks, it is an important milestone in what will undoubtedly be a long and argumentative process. After all, the debate over the nature of the massacre of the Armenians has been going on for decades, and no resolution has been met. But as long as Turkey wishes to be part of the EU, it will have to address this issue and make it part of public discourse.

Kocharian has made an important concession to the Turks in refraining from addressing the Armenian genocide as a genocide in his letter to the Turkish government, as the article states. Nevertheless, Armenians will not rest until Turkey recognizes that this was in fact a genocide and that public apologies are long overdue and most definitely necessary. It is now the responsibility of the Turkish government to ensure that a dialogue between Armenia and Turkey will be established.


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