Armenian Body In Switzerland Wary Of Talks With Turkey

Sargis Shahinyan

July 22 2008

"Armenian-Turkish secret negotiations in Bern. The official position
of the Switzerland-Armenia Association"

The Switzerland-Armenia Association (SAA) is happy that Switzerland
has been selected as the venue of the dialogue aimed at resuming
diplomatic contacts between Armenia and Turkey. Apparently, Turkish
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan indirectly confirmed the fact of secret
negotiations held in Bern on 18 July 2008. However, the SAA also
sees behind this in itself a positive fact Turkey’s hidden wish
to dispute again the issue of the Armenian genocide in the context
of international law and thus, to slow down the recognition of this
genocide. This astonishes particularly bearing in mind that Switzerland
unconditionally condemned the denial of the Armenian genocide at the
level of Federal Court, thus confirming the reality. The SAA believes
that the real dialogue between the two countries will be worthwhile
only if Turkey opens the border with Armenia, which was unilaterally
closed since 1993.

The Armenian side has been sending regular signals for the past
month to the Turkish side regarding starting a dialogue. During the
26-27 June visit to Yerevan, Swiss Head of the Federal Department of
Foreign Affairs Micheline Calmy-Rey made it clear that Switzerland
is ready to play the role of a mediator. Turkey has had no diplomatic
relations with Armenia since it [Armenia] proclaimed independence in
1991. Besides, due to its strategic alliance with Azerbaijan, Turkey
unilaterally closed the border with Armenia in 1993, referring to
the Karabakh conflict. Up to the present Turkey links the opening of
this border to the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Karabakh and
Armenia’s refusal to stop demanding the international recognition
of the 1915-17 genocide. Moreover, in recent years Turkey suggested
establishing "a bilateral commission of historians" of the two
countries to investigate the events of 1915-17.

The SAA is not against the establishment of a scientific commission
that enjoys large international support and that will be able to study
in detail the still little-known sides of the Armenian genocide and
publish the results of the studies. It is time for such an initiative
even under the official auspices of the UN. However, the SAA is
categorically against any attempts of moderating, belittling or even
denying the reality of the Armenian genocide.

[Passage omitted: Switzerland tried to play the role of mediator
between Armenia and Turkey before]

Switzerland and Micheline Calmy-Rey tried in the past to clarify the
role of the "commission of historians", but they did not manage to do
so unfortunately, as Turkey always tried to hinder the use of the word

Switzerland is speaking about an international commission, not
defining clearly its final goals. The SAA remains somewhat pessimistic
regarding this. It does not consider turning this seeming dialogue
into a diplomatic game to be serious, in particular in the case
of a country like Turkey, where the intelligentsia are criminally
persecuted or killed for their views or publications regarding the
Armenian genocide. It is enough to recall the case of a publisher,
Ragip Zarakolu, who was convicted based on Article 301 of the Turkish
legislation [which envisages imprisonment for those who publicly
denigrate Turkishness, the Turkish government and other state entities,
and which is used against people who admitted the fact of the Armenian
genocide]; an article which has been recently modified as if to fit the
European demands; or the murder of the journalist of Armenian origin,
Hrant Dink, in January 2007 in Istanbul; and one can understand the
current political situation in Turkey.

The Armenian genocide is not a matter of bargaining. The improvement
of Ankara-Yerevan diplomatic relations is possible only if Turkey
unambiguously recognizes the historical reality of the Armenian
genocide of 1915-17 and when it stops attempts of hindering its
recognition. The Swiss government should know about this intention
of Turkey.