Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Turkey’s prime minister, in U.S., seeks support against Kurds

This was originally published in November 10, 2007 Armenian Reporter.
by Emil Sanamyan

Acknowledges Kocharian’s offer on relations

WASHINGTON – Kurdish protestors and tight security accompanied Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as he visited here earlier this week to secure U.S. support against Kurdish rebels. He also used the opportunity to deny the Armenian Genocide again and indicated no plans to improve relations with Armenia.

No change in Turkey’s Armenia policy
Speaking at the National Press Club on November 7, Mr. Erdoğan again denied the Genocide and claimed that Turkey wants “to reach a common understanding of this painful period in our history, but I still today have not received a response to my letter of 2005” on establishing a commission of historians. “Since we have not received a response, there is nothing I can say further on the subject.”

But just hours later at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Turkish prime minister was reminded by Arman Israelian of the Armenian Embassy in Washington that Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian had in fact responded to the letter and offered to establish relations without preconditions along the lines of Armenia’s long-standing policy.

Two and a half years after that exchange, Mr. Erdoğan acknowledged the response, adding “but that was not the answer I was looking for.” He went on to insist that Turkey would not establish relations with Armenia or open the border unless Armenia agrees to what amounts to questioning the facts of the Armenian Genocide.

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül, during a November 7 visit to Azerbaijan similarly said that “as long as Armenia initiates decisions on events in the Ottoman Empire in parliaments around the world, it should not expect normalization of relations with Turkey,” the Itar- Tass news agency reported.

Erdoğan upbeat on U.S. position on Kurds
Following talks with PresidentGeorge W. Bush, Mr. Erdoğan told Turkish press that “we got what we came for,” the Jamestown Foundation reported the next day, implying that the U.S. would not object to Turkish attacks against Kurdish rebels inside Iraq. Mr. Bush reportedly promised to provide Turkey with “good, sound intelligence delivered on a real-time basis, using modern technology” to deal with Kurdish rebels.

“Nobody told us not to launch a military operation. They just told us we were right,” Mr. Erdoğan said as hundreds of protestors waved Kurdish flags and chanted “Turkey out of Kurdistan!” and “Stop Turkish Aggression!” just outside the White House.

Much of the Turkish press appeared to agree with Mr. Erdoğan’s assessment and claimed that Turkey would continue to stage small-scale aerial and ground operations inside Iraq aided by intelligence provided by the U.S., which has opposed a large-scale invasion.

Such an invasion has been all but ruled out for now, with former Turkish Armed Forces chief Gen. Hilmi Özkök arguing that it would serve no significant military purpose. But other generals suggested that a credible threat of invasion was necessary to win the cooperation of U.S.–backed Iraqi Kurds.

Passions inside Turkey have diminished somewhat as Kurdish rebels released eight Turkish soldiers its forces captured last week.

Nareg Seferian contributed research for this report.

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