Reflections on the “Los Angeles World Affairs Council” (LAWAC) round table luncheon.
By March Chenian
Text of the original invitation:
World Affairs Council Los Angeles
Members of our Board of Directors and
International Circleare cordially invited to a round table luncheon with His Excellency G?ND?Z S. AKTAN, former Turkish Ambassador to Japan and Greece and His Excellency ?MER ENGIN L?TEM, former Turkish Ambassador to the Vatican; Director of the Armenian Research Institute.
Monday, March 27, 2006, 11:45 a.m., The
TURKS AND ARMENIANS: IS RECONCILIATION POSSIBLE?
Turkey?s entry into the European Union, for which talks began last October, may be eased by support from an unlikely source: , where the Turkish bid has met with a cautious welcome. In fact, over the past few years, a number of moves on both sides have indicated a melting in the long diplomatic freeze between Armenia Turkeyand . Armenia
Yet both countries retain echoes of the Ottoman dynasty that survived for 600 years and whose dominions extended from the Danube through the Levant to
. And they share a mutual history, including Armenian claims of Genocide at the hands of the Ottomans in 1915 and continuing up through the present time, to the sealed Turkish-Armenian border and the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh and Algiers . Azerbaijan
To discuss the future of Turkish-Armenian relations, we are pleased to present the views of two Turkish diplomats and scholars: G?nd?z Aktan and ?mer Engin L?tem.
G?nd?z Aktan, a career diplomat, served as
Turkey?s ambassador to Japanand Greece, after spending his early career in Paris, Nairobi, and . From 1985 to 1988 he was an advisor to late Turkish Prime Minister Turgut ?zal, and later assisted in the writing of Mr. ?zal?s book, The Turks in New York Europe. He has been a member of the Turco-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC), and has written on Armenian issues and international law.
Ambassador ?mer Engin L?tem began his diplomatic career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1957, serving in Turkish missions in
France, Germany, Italyand . He served as General Director of Intelligence and Research and was later appointed Turkish Ambassador to Libya . He went on to serve as Turkish Ambassador to the Bulgaria , and as the Turkish Permanent Representative to UNESCO. He is now the Director of the Armenian Research Institute. Vatican
Please join us for a unique opportunity to hear Turkish perspectives on one of the most persistent of Europe?s dilemmas, the relationship between
Turkeyand . Armenia
End of the text of the original invitation.
The above luncheon was an event scheduled during a two-week tour in the
?In order to take part in a series of meetings on the Armenian question I took a two-week trip to the
?Whenever they have failed in their attempts to block these meetings, the Armenians have tried to prevent Americans and fellow Armenians from attending. When these efforts did not work they took the path of ensuring that handpicked Armenians who could argue with us would attend the lecture at the University of Chicago and take part in a luncheon meeting at the World Affairs Council.?
As the invitation reads, these luncheons are for members of Board of Directors and the International Circle (IC) and their guests, and contrary to the claim / implication of the ambassador Aktan in the same TDN.com, I was not ?handpicked? by any one. I have been associated with the LAWAC for almost three decades and on this particular day, I was a guest of a non-Armenian IC member.
At the luncheon, twenty five were in attendance, including the two ambassadors as well as the Los Angeles Consul General of Turkey, A. Engin Ansay and his deputy. The luncheon was chaired by the President of the Council, Curtis Mack.
President Mack welcomed the Excellencies to the LAWAC and invited the attendees around the table to introduce themselves. Before inviting the guest speakers to make their presentation, he briefly introduced the guests and the day?s topic for discussion.
Ambassador Aktan started with his thanks and gratitude for the invitation and the opportunity to address the distinguished forum on a very important subject/issue for
Speaking from bullet point notes, the thrust of his presentation is reflected in the following direct quote from the same TDN.com,
?On these occasions it became clear why the Armenians avoid meeting with us, calling us ?denyers?: The Armenian theses are even weaker than they are sometimes believed to be. They become greatly upset when they are confronted with documented evidence of the population figures attesting to the size of the Armenian population in 1914 and at the end of the war. Under the circumstances, they cannot insist that 1.5 million Armenians were killed. Similarly, they can hardly deny that they had been a ?political group? that aimed to ethnically cleanse the Turks in a sizable part of eastern
?The only thing they do is to refer to the archives of foreign countries, claiming that missionaries and people like Morgenthau cannot have lied. We asked them then why they were wary of taking their cause to the International Court of Justice in
?The main problem seems to be those Armenian youths who have been convinced by others that during the transfer of population the Armenians had been subjected to the kind of cruel behavior one could only ?see? during fits of hallucination.?
At the table, the Ambassador concluded his remarks by saying that Genocide is a clearly defined legal term; it should be applied and handled accordingly. Governments and Parliaments are not the forums to decide Genocide. The only competent forum is the International Court of Justice (I C of J). He emphasized that
The meeting opened for discussion. President Mack thanked the Ambassador for his remarks and followed with the question, ?What is the solution, where do we go from here??
In his answer, ambassador Aktan repeated that the I C of J in
Discussions from around the table followed. One individual (non-Armenian) challenged the interpretation of the facts by the ambassador. He stated that what transpired in 1915-1916 with the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire is Genocide and
?Your Excellencies, if this luncheon was sixty years ago, your colleagues sitting in your chairs would have denied that there ever were Armenians in
?Mr. Ambassador, today?s discussion was labeled ?Turkish-Armenian reconciliation?. In my opinion, if there is any reconciling to be done, first and foremost, is for
The ambassador replied with an agreement that it is true and essential for
?Mr. Ambassador, as was stated earlier,
The ambassador did not agree with the above characterization. In an attempt to conveniently dilute the asymmetry of and vastly unequal Ottoman Turkish government machinery on one hand and episodes of Armenian resistance and self defense on the other, he mentioned the uprisings in Van, Sassoun, Zeitun; the war activities on the Russian front as prime examples of ?ongoing civil war? that prompted the Ottomans to ?save themselves with deporting and massacring the Armenians.?
?Mr. Ambassador, what I just heard from you reminds me of a Turkish word ?bazarlik?, translated as bargaining in the bazaar. Not to repeat myself, all these overloads of excuses and ever-changing arguments tantamount to a ?bazarlik?, with the single-minded aim of Turkey to fight against the label of Genocide to the Armenian experience, where Genocide is defined as ?? acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a nation, ethnic, racial or religious group??, and settle with labels like massacres and atrocities with no such implications.?
?All this ?bazarlik? would not have been necessary except for the fact that the UN framed Genocide in International Law with special determination to punish the crime with justice and restitution. In the Holocaust case, the crime was executed in
?Mr. Ambassador, there are two fundamental laws of nature, physics, that apply. One is the law of gravity and the other the law of irreversibility. The law of gravity will pull the Turkish side to the truth, truth in history. As was mentioned earlier, you have come a long way. Eventually, you will get to the truth. It is the law of nature. And in this process, through the second law of nature, the law of irreversibility, you are already discovering that history cannot be reversed, or re-written.?
?Until very recently the Turkish line of argument went like, ?the so called Armenian Genocide belongs to history and it is for the historians to decide.? Well you personally know very well that on your own initiative, a forum of neutral legal scholars examined the Armenian experience in the Ottoman Empire starting in 1915 and concluded that it was Genocide [
?The Armenian side understands why all this ?bazarlik? is for. The 1948 UN convention clearly defines Genocide as a STATE CRIME. The author of the term and the inspiration behind the convention, the Jewish legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, used the Armenian experience starting in 1915 in Ottoman Turkey to define the State Crime of Genocide. Mr. Ambassador, how can one dissociate the term Genocide from its definition? So please give up this exercise in futility. If I were a consultant to the government of Turkey, I would advise, for the next fifteen years, to redirect all assets and energies towards meeting the requirements for European membership, that is meeting the economic standards with a ?clean slate?. This clean slate includes recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
At this point, the Consul General of Turkey in
?Mr. Consul General, what you just did was to ?dangle a carrot? to the Armenian side implying economic benefits, another ?bazarlik?. If
?As you know, the European concept is based on no internal borders. In that window of fifteen years on the way to
Ambassador Lutem stated that taking the case to I C of J is the way to accelerate the resolution and repeated that the Armenian side is afraid and avoiding
?Mr. Ambassador, I am not aware that
?You correctly claim that Genocide is a criminal law concept. I am not a lawyer, but I know that discovery phases precede trials. As I mentioned earlier,
?Parallel to criminal judicial system, where the committed crime is against society/the people and by proxy the government takes the criminal to court, Genocide is a State Crime against Humanity, and Humanity as a Whole take the
At this point, a Turkish American stepped in the conversation. He had earlier introduced himself as a naturalized citizen and lived in the States for about twenty-five years. He claimed that he represented the Turkish Diaspora, and objected to any reconciliation between
?Sir, first, I am observing a typical Diaspora behavior. Emigrants, when they leave their homeland, freeze in their minds the country the way they left. Sir, what you just describing is no more the state of affairs and thinking in
?Second, I am not sure where you got your facts and numbers. This is the LAWAC. Where the two Ambassadors are sitting today, world leaders and history makers sat before them. That kind of irresponsible and unfounded declaration is not acceptable in the bazaar, let alone in this distinguished forum.?
?And third, you claim the two and a half million Turkish deaths. Can you elaborate when they died, where they died, how they died, who killed them and how they were killed? When you answer these questions to yourself, you will find out that, Armenians have nothing to do with that.?
?Again, you remind me of a lesson that every first year law school student learns, namely, ?when the law is on your side, you argue the law; when the facts are on your side, you argue the facts; and when neither the law nor the facts are on your side you try to create a confusion, very much like ?scrambled eggs?. Sir, nobody is buying your scrambled eggs.?
Soon after, President Mack thanked the Excellencies and the participants. The luncheon was adjourned.
Before departing I had a chance to have a short chat with ambassador Aktan. He asked me if I believed that the Armenian Genocide issue could ever be resolved. I replied that as a person I was an optimist and I believed in what I said at the table, that it will be resolved in the way I described. He did not believe that it will ever happen. In reply, I reminded him that just a couple of decades ago no one believed that the
The next morning in the LAX American Airlines terminal, on my way to
The above reflections are based on notes taken by Mark Chenian soon after the luncheon and on the way to
You can reach Mark Chenian at: [email protected]