ANKARA: Turkish, Armenian Activists Discuss Normalization Process

TURKISH, ARMENIAN ACTIVISTS DISCUSS NORMALIZATION PROCESS

Today’s Zaman (Turkey)
May 12, 2014 Monday

by SINEM CENGIZ

A group of Turkish activists came together with their Armenian
counterparts on Monday in the Armenian capital of Yerevan at a training
course with the aim of debating the future of the Turkish-Armenian
reconciliation process.

Organized by the eight Turkish and Armenian nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) as part of the “Support to Turkey-Armenia
Rapprochement Project” and funded by the European Union, the training
course entitled “Closed Borders, Open Minds” aims to support for the
better ties between Ankara and Yerevan which have been cool over the
1915 events.

The first training course takes place in Yerevan from May 12-18 with
the participation of 20 Turkish and Armenian activists, and the second
will take place in Istanbul in September.

The aim of the course is to deepen the two sides’ awareness of their
shared history; shape positive opinions; and clarify political contexts
with regard to the Armenia-Turkey normalization process. it also aims
to create a platform for future cross-border cooperation by bringing
together youth leaders from both countries and to serve as a framework
for intercultural dialogue and communication between the participants.

The project’s participants aim to work with policy-makers to advocate
a faster Armenia-Turkey normalization process. The participants listed
their expectations for the course as follows: “The outcome of the
project should have an impact on a governmental and societal level,
develop relations between universities in both countries and raise
public awareness regarding Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.”

A historic reconciliation process was launched between Turkey and
Armenia in 2009, when the two sides signed protocols to normalize
diplomatic relations, but the move was not well received by
neighboring Azerbaijan. The protocols, signed in Zurich, shook
Turkish-Azerbaijani relations, as a territorial conflict between
Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh area has yet
to be resolved. The ratification of the protocols stalled after
Turkey insisted that Armenia first agree to find a solution to the
long-standing Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

Meanwhile, 2015 marks the centennial of the tragic events of 1915
that led to the relocation of the Armenian population from Anatolia
by the Ottoman Empire during World War i; as it approaches, tension
and preparations have been gaining momentum in Turkey and Armenia.

Backed by many historians, Armenia says about 1.5 million Armenians
were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World War i in a
deliberate policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman government.

Turkey says there were heavy losses of life on both sides during
the fighting, in which Armenian partisans supported invading Russian
forces.

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande paid an official visit to
Armenia on Monday. Before his visit to Yerevan, Hollande had stated
that France would make a strong effort for the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict to be resolved through negotiations, according to reports.

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