ANKARA: Armenian Youth: Let There Be Light


Turkish Daily News
July 28 2008

A group of youth in Armenia has voiced their opposition to any
interference into relations between Turkey and Armenia from Western
countries and the Diaspora. They also sent a message to Turkey, saying,
‘Please do not blame Armenia because of the acts and attitudes of
the Diaspora.’

The members of the youth team at an influential Armenian radio station
are pushing for the normalization of relations between Turkey and
Armenia and for fruitful dialogue coupled with close contact between
the peoples of both countries.

Erik Gazharian, a member of the youth program at Radio Liberty
(Azatutyun in Armenian) and an international relations expert,
addressed Western countries and the Armenian Diaspora, saying:
"Western countries manipulate the Armenian issue in line with their
own interests and their interferences damage Armenia’s relations
with Turkey. The Diaspora, on the other hand, should be well aware
of the fact that Armenia is an independent republic. And Turkey
should consider not the Diaspora but the Republic of Armenia as
her addressee."

Gazharian was also critical of the Armenian genocide bill
that would grant U.S. congressional recognition to the alleged
genocide. "The states have been utilizing such a sensitive issue
while also maintaining its own interests, which pushes Armenia into
big difficulty, and Turkey unfortunately takes a negative attitude
toward Armenia — not to America — because of such attempts," he said,
referring to the genocide resolution.

Gazharian said he believed the Armenian issue had been politicized,
saying the current question, rooted in a controversial history,
should be the concern of objective historians from both sides. "No
matter whatever you call it, genocide or forced migration, a painful
episode took place in history. This is undeniable," he added.

The youth program’s director, Karlen Aslanian, on the other hand, said
of the Armenian issue: "The bitter events that occurred in the past
decades are still the biggest obstacle to a possible reconciliation
between the two peoples, the Turks and the Armenians. We, the two
sides, do not communicate with each other. It is a must for both of
us to start dialogue and to share our pains with each other."

Normalization of relations more important than border opening

For Gazharian, a move by Armenian President Serge Sarkisian to extend
an invitation to Turkish President Abdullah Gul to watch a football
game together was a significant step, signaling normalization of
bilateral relations. "The first statesman that congratulated Sarkisian
immediately after he ascended the presidential throne was President
Gul," said Gazharian. "I hope positive course of relations between
Turkey and Armenia would not remain limited only to a football game,"
he added.

Gazharian also addressed Armenian politicians. "If politicians in
Armenia want to establish good relations with Turkey, border opening
should not be the only criterion in their eyes anymore. Open borders
do not necessarily mean normalized bilateral relations," he said.

Gazharian visited Turkey last year — his first visit to the
country. Because the Turkey-Armenia border was (and is still) closed,
he entered Turkey from Georgia. "I just wanted to personally experience
the feeling of traveling along a closed border between two neighboring
countries. So, instead of entering Turkey from an open gate located
at a spot that is 50 minutes away from Yerevan, I chose to travel for
hours and hours in a bus to Georgia. From there, I crossed to Turkey,"
he said.

Families from Armenia spend their holiday in Antalya

Both Gazharian and Aslanian plan to visit Turkey once again in the
upcoming weeks. On their next visit, they would like to bring some
of their young friends as well. "We have positive opinions about
Turkey. Yes, painful event did occur in the past decades. But from
now on, we should look to future not to the past," they said.

Rich families from Armenia go to Turkey’s Mediterranean resort town
Antalya each summer to spend their holiday, said Aslanian. According
to official figures, approximately 70,000 citizens of Armenia spent
their summer vacation in Antalya last year, he added.

"Those people, who are presented as enemies against Turkey, chose to
spend their holiday in Turkey rather than spending it in any Western
countries," said Aslanian, arguing that such non-political relations
between societies are more significant than political relations
between states.