BAKU: ‘Reconciliation Monument’ Under Construction In Turkey


AzerNews Weekly
Dec 3 2008

A "monument of reconciliation" with Armenians is being built in
Turkey`s historic city of Gars, located on the border between the
two countries.

The resumption of construction on the site, which had been suspended
by the Turkish government several times, was made possible due to
the efforts by pro-Armenian forces.

Construction work on the monument, being built by architect Mehmet
Aksoy, is close to completion. The 32-meter monument shows a hand being
extended to Armenia and other elements signifying reconciliation. This
monument, to be Turkey`s tallest, will be seen from Armenia as well.

Gars, with 70% of its population being Azerbaijani Turks, is considered
a key in forging relations with Armenia. Considering that there are
plenty of forces in the city seeking rapprochement with this country,
the role played by Gars on this issue is tremendous. Supporters of
restoring and developing relations between Turkey and Armenia are
included among the city`s authorities. The public relations efforts
and petitioning campaign, previously conducted by the head of the
Gars municipality, Naif Alibayoglu, calls for the launching of
diplomatic relations and opening the border with Armenia. Moreover,
Gars has become a stage for political games during an event held under
the name, "The Festival of Caucasus Cultures." Along with Armenian
musicians, area politicians and businessmen attended the event and
participated in programs such as "Public Diplomacy." Currently, this
policy is being pursued with more ease. The Turkish government`s recent
gestures toward Armenia have further encouraged the Gars municipality
to restore ties with the neighboring country, which have been marred
by historical tensions.

Although Ankara has made it clear that restoring diplomatic ties
and opening up the border is possible only after Yerevan complies
with verifiable pre-conditions, Gars has apparently outlined its own
political course in this regard.

Armenia and Turkey maintain no diplomatic ties and the border between
the two countries has been closed since 1993 on Ankara`s insistence,
due to Armenia`s occupation of Azerbaijani territories and Armenian
claims that huge numbers of their countrymen were killed by the
Ottoman Empire during World War I. However, relations between the
two countries have recently begun to improve. Following secret talks
in July between Turkish and Armenian diplomats in Bern, Turkish and
Armenian leaders attended a 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match
together in Yerevan early in September when Abdullah Gul became the
first Turkish leader to visit Armenia. Further, Armenian Foreign
Minister Eduard Nalbandian visited Turkey on November 24 where they
discussed ways of normalizing relations between Ankara and Yerevan.

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