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Turkey continues to extend ‘friendship’ to Armenians: FM

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‘We do not have the luxury to give up. Not this year, not afterwards,’ says Mevlut Cavusoglu regarding efforts to reconcile with Armenians.

The desire for “reconciliation” and “friendship,” with Armenians will continue, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday.

“We do not have the luxury to give up. Not this year, not afterwards,” he said while speaking at a American Turkish Council, or ATC, meeting here.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s condolences message last April to Armenians who lost their lives during the 1915 events was the first of it’s kind from a high-ranking Turkish official, which was “about empathy and sharing grief,” but “this major step unfortunately found no response,” from Armenian authorities, Cavusoglu said.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s messages in January to commemorate the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was killed in 2007, “was not enough to convince the radical Armenian circles about our sincere efforts.”

While highlighting the importance of the ATC as a “bridge” between the U.S. and Turkey, Cavusoglu asked council members to assist in Turkey’s efforts in building a better relationship with Armenians.

As a part of his visit in the U.S. capital, the Turkish minister also delivered an address at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think thank.

It was no surprise that the Armenian discussion became a hot topic during his speech.

“We have been working since 2009 to overcome the division between these two ancient peoples. Two people who for centuries coexisted in peace and harmony,” Cavusoglu said, noting that Turkey shares the suffering of Armenians, and tries with “patience and resolve, to re-establish empathy between the two peoples.”

According to Cavusoglu, Turkey will “continue to work for a framework that both addresses the historic aspect of the problem and also helps solve the Nagorno-Karabagh issue,” known as the invasion of the Azerbaijan territory of Nagorno-Karabakh by Armenia that began in 1988 with minor conflicts but evolved into a full war in 1992.

Since the end of the war in 1994, Armenian and Azeri delegations have held talks about the status of Nagorno-Karabakh under the supervision of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group.

There are approximately 40,000 Armenian citizens in Turkey, two of which are candidates for the upcoming local elections, one of them from the ruling AK Party.

“They are enjoying the rights. They are also enjoying the rights that Turkish government has been giving back,” said Cavusoglu.

Asked his opinion about the European Parliament vote on the centenary of the 1915 events to reconfirm a 1987 resolution that first recognized the incidents as “genocide,” Cavusoglu said the “European Parliament resolution is not binding.”

“Historians should decide about it not politicians.”

Turkey has asked “Armenian friends” to come together and establish a committee of historians to work on the issue, said Cavusoglu, and “Turkey is ready to accept the outcome of this committee.”

The 1915 events took place during World War I when a portion of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire sided with invading Russians and revolted against the empire.

The Ottoman Empire relocated Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts, resulting in Armenian casualties during the relocation process.

Armenia has demanded an apology and compensation, while Turkey has refuted Armenian claims about the incidents saying that although Armenians died during the relocations, many Turks also lost their lives in attacks carried out by Armenian gangs in Anatolia.

Ankara agrees that there were Armenian casualties during World War I, but says that it is impossible to define these events as genocide.

Resource: Anadolu Agency, April 21, 2015

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