Yerevan picks historians for commission
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 10/19/2009 12:00:00 AM | VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU
Yerevan has already picked the Armenian historians who are expected to take place in the controversial history commission
Yerevan has already picked the Armenian historians expected to participate in the controversial history commission, although the historic agreement aimed at normalizing relations between Turkey and Armenia has yet to be ratified by either parliament.
Also, an Armenian historian who was born in Istanbul has been unofficially put in charge of the committee by the Turkish government.
The history commission, which is expected to be part of an intergovernmental commission between the two countries, is one of the most delicate matters in the recently signed diplomatic protocols.
Although not mentioned in the protocols, Turkey has been naming a settlement on the long-standing territorial dispute of Nagorno-Karabakh and the history commission as preconditions for reconciliation with its ex-Soviet neighbor. Ankara says the joint history commission should study and discuss the 1915 deaths of Armenians during the last days of the Ottoman Empire.
Armenian President Serge Sarkisian and his government rejected Turkey’s offer of a history commission, labeling it as “politically motivated.” However, while saying Armenia would never step down from its stance on the 1915 killings, Yerevan has already chosen the historians for the commission.
The names for the commission were selected by the administration of Sarkisian, a senior Armenian government official told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. The official was speaking on the condition of anonymity due the sensitivity of the issue. Another diplomatic source from the Turkish side also verified the appointments, further saying that the commission would begin working immediately if the diplomatic protocols are ratified by both the Turkish and Armenian parliaments.
Meanwhile, an Armenian historian who was born in Istanbul is unofficially holding meetings for Turkey about the establishment of the commission. The Armenian historian, who went to Yerevan last year to conduct research using the archives of the Genocide Museum, is also the first historian of Armenian origin who was granted special permission by former President Fahri Korutürk to conduct research using the Ottoman archives in 1974.
The Armenian side would offer only Armenian historians to the commission, he said, adding that historians from the diaspora, who have been carrying out research in the archives of many countries, would not be included.
Ara Sarafian, a leading diaspora historian and the director of London-based Gomidas Institute, said the commission matter is political and he does not want to comment on the issue. In a previous interview with the Daily News, Sarafian said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s call for a history commission was a positive move, but added that Armenia is not the right address for the issue. “The archived documents in Armenia are insufficient. The freedom of historians is limited. So, a delicate matter such as genocide will be pulled into the political arena,” he said.