TURKISH PM SAYS HE WON’T APOLOGY TO ARMENIANS
By Selcan Hacaoglu
17 Dec 08
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s prime minister on Wednesday said he
will not join a group of Turkish intellectuals who issued an apology on
the Internet for the World War I-era massacres of Armenians in Turkey.
"If there is a crime, then those who committed it can offer an
apology. My nation, my country has no such issue," Recep Tayyip
Erdogan said. "I personally do not support this campaign."
The Turkish prime minister’s reaction, echoed by nationalists and even
members of opposition parties, was a setback for the intellectuals’
hopes to nurture reconciliation by shattering a taboo against
acknowledging Turkish culpability for the deaths.
Several Turkish diplomats and lawmakers have condemned the apology
and hundreds of Turks joined groups that popped up on Facebook with
titles such as "I am not apologizing."
Erdogan said the apology issued Monday threatens to damage improved
relations and is not binding.
"This initiative jeopardizes Turkey’s Armenia policy because it could
trigger public pressure and polarization within Turkey," Erdal Safak,
a columnist for daily Sabah newspaper, wrote in Wednesday editions.
Turkey has opened an air corridor to the landlocked country and
renovated a historic Armenian church. The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday
said Turkey’s archives were open to researchers studying a chapter
of history that has pois oned relations between the two countries.
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul visited Armenia in September to watch
a World Cup qualifying match as a goodwill gesture.
Despite diplomatic overtures, the two countries have failed to
establish a commission of historians to examine Turkish and Armenian
archives and to share their findings with the public.
Armenia and Turkey do not have diplomatic relations because of
the dispute over the killings of Armenians during World War I,
which Armenians claim was genocide. Their shared border has been
closed since 1993, when Turkey protested Armenia’s occupation of
Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey backs Azerbaijan’s claims to the disputed
region, which has a high number of ethnic Armenian residents but is
located within Azerbaijan’s borders.
Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman
Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by
genocide scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey,
however, denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying that the
toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of civil
war and unrest.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress