Turkey’s new ambassador to France ready for ‘unprejudiced dialogue’ with Armenians

Turkey’s new ambassador to France ready for ‘unprejudiced dialogue’ with Armenians

Arzu Çakır Morin HÜRRİYET / PARIS
Turkey’s new ambassador to France ready for ‘unprejudiced dialogue’ with Armenians

Ambassador Hakkı Akil and his wife İnci Akil.

Hakkı Akil, who began his term as Turkey’s ambassador to Paris on April 14, has described the “Armenian issue,” which is the thorniest subject in his portfolio, as “heartbreaking.”

In an interview with daily Hürriyet, Akil stressed that he was ready to engage in an “unprejudiced dialogue” with Armenians in France ahead of 2015, the 100th anniversary of the tragedy that befell the Ottoman Armenians.

“Two nations that are so alike should finally make peace. We should take steps to realize it,” Akil said at his official residence in Paris.

Denying the common assumption that Paris is a difficult post for Turkish ambassadors, Akil referred to his previous stations as ambassador.

“Turkmenistan was a more difficult post. There were also various difficulties in Abu Dhabi and in Italy. Although France has some difficulties, it also has some ease. You can receive a response from the French authorities on a certain subject within a week, while other countries may provide it only within two or even six months,” he said.

As the first Turkish graduate of Paris’s renowned Ecole National d’Administration, Akil remembers several incumbent French officials from his school years. “From UMP chair Jean Francois Cope to the current governor of Haute des Seine, several officials were my classmates. I organized a Turkish night for my classmates every month,” he said.

Akil added that he views the three main subjects of Ankara-Paris relations “positively”: EU accession, the Armenian issue, and the Turkish community in France. Stressing that a relatively more healthy atmosphere had been created in EU negotiations since French President Francois Hollande had come to office, the new Turkish ambassador said “the train should not be derailed.”

“After the necessary ground has been covered, both sides may put their thinking caps on and evaluate the situation. The Turkish people may have a say on [the EU membership] through a referendum, after Turkey completes all the necessary reforms. Perhaps they may oppose membership like Norway, or opt to stay out of the Euro or Schengen areas like the United Kingdom. However, the exact future of neither Europe nor Britain is clear now,” Akil said.

The “Armenian problem,” on the hand, should be considered in general terms, rather than with regards to France only, according to the Turkish diplomat, adding that the “genocide question” should be addressed in the near future by international courts.

“Armenian officials go beyond jurisprudence and take this issue to parliaments by practicing a ‘perception policy.’ Frankly, they are successful, but there is a drawback: A serious term like ‘genocide’ is being banalized and emptied of meaning in this way,” Akil said.

He supports the thesis that recent European Court of Human Rights rulings and the related verdict of the Constitutional Council in France have put an end to “Armenian intellectual terrorism,” just as the Orly trials put an end to the terrorism of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), which killed a total of 46 Turkish diplomats from 1975 to the early 1990s.

“Now it’s time for friendship and peace. Seeing two nations that lived together for more than 10 centuries, listening to the same music, having the same culture, eating the same food, laughing at the same jokes, be separated by hate speech breaks my heart,” Akil said.

Stating that the second wife of his of great grandfather was an Armenian woman, Akil stressed he was still seeing his Armenian friends when ASALA was assassinating Turkish diplomats. “We should provide the opportunity for our peoples to live peacefully on the grassroots level,” he said.

The new ambassador also admitted that he has “no special preparation” for the symbolic year 2015. “Whether it’s 2014 or 2016, I suggest the same policy: Leave the legal and historical debates to jurists. Our mission is to eliminate hate speech,” Akil added.