By Michael Soltys, Herald staff

Buenos Aires Herald
June 1 2010

Admits to sensitivity over Armenian Genocide

City Mayor Mauricio Macri yesterday described Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision to cancel his two-day visit here as
"incomprehensible." Such a strong reaction to the suspension of
a ceremony concerning a monument had taken City Hall by surprise,
Macri insisted, adding that his mayoral administration "has always
taken a very clear stance with respect to the feelings of the Armenian
community and all the pain caused by genocide."

But informed sources yesterday gave the Herald a very different story.

The initiative to inaugurate a monument to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,
the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, began last November as an
idea to celebrate this year's centenary of Turco-Argentine diplomatic
relations on the basis of information supplied by former foreign
minister Adalberto Rodr├*guez Giavarini that there was already a
bust requiring restoration. Most of the summer passed before Turkish
Ambassador Hayri Hayret Yalav met with City Environment Minister
Diego Santilli to discuss this idea (on February 4) but Santilli's
approval of the idea was confirmed in a subsequent April meeting
with Macri himself, according to the sources. Only on May 28 did City
Hall notify the Turkish Embassy that the ceremony could not go ahead,
thus triggering Erdogan's decision the next day not to come.

Santilli adduced two further reasons for denying the ceremony a green
light -- that the bust to be restored did not in fact exist and that
any initiative for new monuments required legislative approval.

City Hall's stance was not backed at national level -- President
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner telephoned Erdogan to apologize
for the episode, excusing her own administration by saying that
it could not override the City's autonomy. At the same time Foreign
Minister Jorge Taiana blamed the cancellation of the official visit on
"Erdogan's disgust over the decision of Macri's government." According
to a Turkish Embassy press release, the Turkish Foreign Minister
approached Taiana in Rio de Janeiro last Friday and asked Argentina
to honour its commitment.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry's openly voiced suspicions that the
withdrawal of permission for the Ataturk ceremony was "due to the
opposition of Armenian sectors" seemed to be confirmed by Macri's
remarks yesterday about "genocide." But Macri was not being strictly
accurate if he was linking Ataturk directly to the 1915-17 Armenian
genocide. As any history of the First World War will bear witness,
the month of April, 1915 (when the massacres began) found Ataturk on
the Gallipoli peninsula as a senior Turkish officer under the command
of the German General Liman von Sanders, preparing to meet the ANZAC
and other Allied landings -- Turkey was then still the Ottoman Empire,
not a Republic, and its political master was the Young Turk leader
Enver Pasha.

Macri is assumed to be sensitive not only to the "feelings of the
Armenian community" but also their votes since they number some
130,000. Ironically enough, this vote would be completely swamped by
the two or three million turcos living in Argentina were it not for
the fact that hardly any are ethnically Turkish -- they are virtually
all Lebanese or Syrian Arabs who acquired their name because they
arrived here with Ottoman passports.

Another irony was that Erdogan's visit would still have been
accident-prone if it had gone ahead -- yesterday's Israeli attack
(see front page) prompted Erdogan to cut short his visit to Chile
and would undoubtedly have complicated his stay here.

Despite all these adversities, Ambassador Yalav told the Herald that
he was optimistic about Turco-Argentine relations, pointing out that
Erdogan and CFK met only last week in Rio de Janeiro and would continue
to meet at all G20 summits.

From: A. Papazian