December 8, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
tel: (202) 775-1918 / (703) 585-8254 cell

LEVERAGING TURKEY-ARMENIA PROTOCOLS, ERDOGAN PRESSES ADVANTAGE DURING DC VISIT

Escalates Genocide Denial, Pushes Preconditions, Reinforces Pressure on Nagorno Karabagh

WASHINGTON, DC – Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, having secured at least temporarily, the silence of yet another Administration on the Armenian Genocide, has used his U.S. visit to further press Turkey’s advantage – dramatically escalating his genocide denial rhetoric, reinforcing Turkey’s “Protocols” preconditions for lifting its blockade of Armenia, and attempting to use Ankara’s new found leverage in the Nagorno Karabagh peace process to deliver a pro-Azerbaijani settlement of this conflict, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“Today, more than seven months into the silence of yet another U.S. Administration on the Armenian Genocide, it’s painfully clear that Erdogan has not, as President Obama had hoped, moved toward a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts – but rather sprinted in exactly the opposite direction, dramatically ramping up his denial rhetoric and pressing more aggressively against U.S. recognition of this crime,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “As we’ve said from day one, for Erdogan and his government, the Protocols are not about peace. They represent simply another tactic by Turkey to extend U.S. complicity in Turkey’s denials from one April 24th to the next,” added Hamparian.

In addition to escalating his Armenian Genocide denial demands, Erdogan also made clear that his government would not respect either of the two U.S. priorities for Turkey-Armenia normalization: no preconditions and a reasonable timeframe. He continued to press for both the two Turkish preconditions hardwired into the Protocols, namely a historical “commission” and the confirmation of borders, as well as a third unwritten precondition that the Nagorno Karabagh issue be settled to Azerbaijan’s satisfaction. At the same time, he firmly established that Turkey does not feel any obligation to move forward in a timely manner.

Erdogan’s comments came during a press conference held at the Willard Hotel, followed by a presentation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) and an evening speech at SETA-DC, touted as the only Turkish think tank in Washington, DC. He will continue presentations on Tuesday at the German Marshall Fund and later do a PBS television interview with Charlie Rose.

During his think tank appearances, Prime Minister Erdogan pontificated – often in a lecturing and self-righteous tone – on a broad range of topics, from foreign policy to climate change and world poverty. The formats of these presentations, which featured highly controlled third-party participation, lent themselves to this type of one-way communication. The only exceptions were the few questions, submitted in writing, dealing with the Armenian Genocide and freedom of speech in Turkey. Both of these topics sparked angry and unscripted responses from Erdogan.

Asked during his Johns Hopkins presentation by ANCA Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian about his thoughts on repeated statements by President Obama that his views had not changed on the “events on 1915,” Erdogan descended into a strident diatribe of denial of the Armenian Genocide, dismissing decades of scholarship documenting the systematic destruction of the Armenian population from 1915-1923. “My ancestors have never committed genocide,” asserted Erdogan. “This is, in my opinion, not possible… Those people who speak of genocide, I don’t know what documentation they base it on.”

Asked about recent Congressional rebuke of media repression in Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan denied that there are restrictions on the press in Turkey, stating, “The press in Turkey is perhaps freer than the press in the U.S. – much more so, in my opinion.”

At SETA-DC, in response to a question on the ratification timeline of the Turkey-Armenia protocols, Prime Minister Erdogan stated that: “There are certain connections, which need to be taken into consideration, the first one of which being the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. There is at the moment this concern in the Parliament and that’s why we called the MINSK group – the United States, Russian Federation and France especially – to move forward in this area. If they can work on the Nagarno-Karabakh problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which has been ongoing for the last 20 years and if progress can be made towards a solution to the problem of Nagorno-Karabagh, then not only will problems between Azerbaijan and Armenia be resolved but also there will be a positive contribution to the process between Turkey and Armenia, whereby the parliaments will reflect upon their work, the good will and progress in the issue of Nagarno-Karabagh, and this what we would like to see happen.”

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