TURKEY AND ARMENIA EXTENDING OLIVE BRANCH TO EACH OTHER

Turkish Daily News
July 25, 2008 Friday


Political circles and the public in Armenia are quite curious about
Turkish President Abdullah Gul's response to an invitation extended
by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan to watch the Turkey-Armenia
football World Cup qualifier that will take place in Yerevan Sept. 6.

Rumors that Turkish and Armenian diplomats held secret negotiations
over the topic in Switzerland have further increased the level of
curiosity. Contact between the two sides certainly does not take place
only in the meeting rooms of third parties. A group from Turkey also
had contacts in Yerevan last week. Yet both sides, Turkey and Armenia,
prefer to remain silent for now.

On the other hand, top-level Armenian politicians insistently refrain
from being interviewed by journalists from the Turkish media these
days, because they think any interviews they'd have with Turkish
journalists would be manipulated, and therefore, not be reflected
objectively to the Turkish public. So they try to be cautious
about interviews, with the idea that they might spoil the course of
softening relations between Turkey and Armenia. Even though I, as a
Turkish journalist of Armenian descent, was not treated like other
journalists in Yerevan, this did not save a planned interview that
I was going to conduct with a top-level politician from postponement
to an uncertain "next time" due to a last-moment occurrence.

I asked the opinions of many Armenians on the street. Most of them do
not have a positive perspective toward the Sargsyan administration. My
general impression is that the majority of citizens in Armenia want
to see country's first president, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, in power again.

By the way, many citizens also think that the last presidential
elections were biased. For them, the government of Sargsyan is the
main source of the internal conflict that occurred in March. That is
actually the reason why Sargsyan has recently been trying hard to
regain the public's confidence. One of his big goals is to develop
Armenia's economy, which has had a significant growth rate in
recent years, and in this way, to increase the level of prosperity in
Armenian society. But his priority is to expand the scope of bilateral
relations with neighboring countries, which definitely, and above all,
include Turkey.

Turkey's addressee Armenia, not the diaspora

Meanwhile, the "genocide" issue is still a taboo in Armenia. Only young
intellectuals have a moderate approach toward possible dialogue with
Turkey. "I believe in the importance of possible dialogue with Turkey,"
said Dr. Hayk Demoyan, the 33-year-old director of the Genocide Museum
in Yerevan. "Turkey's internal peace is highly important for us. I
lost a large part of my family during the painful event that occurred
in the past decades. I am still a part of those lands. My roots belong
to those lands. That's why a dialogue with Turkey is important."

University students, too, have an interest in Turkey and the
Turks. This is the impression I got as a result of a number of
interviews I conducted with students in different universities in
Yerevan. Some students even spend their holidays in Turkey. Young
people in Armenia also hold the opinion that the two peoples need to
communicate with each other and talk about the traumas that happened
in the past. And they are quite critical about interferences by
the diaspora and the countries of the West in the problems between
Turkey and Armenia. Young academics, on the other hand, underline
that Armenia is an independent country and the problems between it
and Turkey can be solved only with the cooperation of both.