- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Armenians doubt Turks

Turkish Ambassador Faruk Logoglu yesterday defended his government’s efforts to reach out to Armenian-Americans, despite criticism that Turkey continues to resist any discussion of key disputes such as the mass killing of Armenians in 1915.

Mr. Logoglu pointed to the U.S. visit last month of Ecvet Tezcan, a Foreign Ministry representative, who met with leaders of the Armenian Assembly of America to begin a dialogue with Americans of Armenian descent.

However, he added, it is “grossly unfair” to describe his efforts as negotiations.

“He was not negotiating anything. The idea was to establish a first contact between the Armenian diaspora and the Turkish Foreign Ministry,” the ambassador said.

Turkish-Armenian relations have been strained for years over accusations of an Armenian genocide, the Turkish closure of the land border between the two countries, and Turkey’s demand that Armenia withdraw from Azerbaijan, a Turkish ally.

Peter Vosbikian, chairman of the board of the Armenian Assembly of America, complained that Mr. Tezcan “led us to believe that [the Turkish] government was seriously considering a new relationship with Armenia and Armenians.”

In a letter last week to Mr. Tezcan, he said the two had held a “full and frank exchange on many subjects.”

However, Mr. Vosbikian said, recent statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan and the Turkish education minister “stand in sharp contradiction to the tone and substance of our earlier meeting.”

“They raise serious doubts about the goals of your country’s policies,” he said.

Mr. Erdogan said Turkey will not reopen the border with Armenia unless Armenia stops its campaign “for international recognition of the 1915 genocide,” Mr. Vosbikian said.

The ambassador to Azerbaijan rejected bilateral talks with Armenia, and the education minister called on students to write essays on what he called a “genocide” committed by the Armenians against the Turks, Mr. Vosbikian said.

Armenia claims that soldiers of the Ottoman Turkish empire killed 1.5 million Armenian civilians in an attempt to ethnically cleanse the population from Turkish territory during World War I. Turkey disputes the number of dead and says the government was putting down an armed Armenian uprising.

Ambassador Logoglu said Armenians and Turks “have lived together for hundreds and hundreds of years. We are looking forward to normalizing relations for the benefit of the region.”

Oil for Iraq

The U.S. ambassador to Russia said Moscow will have to deal with a new Iraqi government to settle claims relating to contracts signed with the regime of Saddam Hussein.

“Our position is absolutely clear. Iraqi oil and oil resources belong to the Iraqi people, and decisions about their development and future production will be taken by the future Iraqi government,” Alexander Vershbow told Russia’s Interfax news agency in an interview published yesterday.

Russia had billions of dollars in contracts with Saddam, but those deals have been “suspended,” Mr. Vershbow said.

“We have, as it were, suspended the contracts signed by Russian companies with the former Iraqi regime,” he said. “In other words, these contracts are being neither fulfilled nor broken. The decisions concerning them will be taken by the future government.”

He noted that President Bush, at a June summit with President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, “said perfectly clearly” that Russian firms are free to do business in Iraq and the United States “will not try to harm the interests of Russian companies.”

North Korea’s chance

North Korea missed a chance to improve relations with the United States by breaking its international promises and pursuing a nuclear weapons program, Thomas Hubbard, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, said yesterday.

“The United States was prepared last summer to offer the North Koreans a bold approach. It was an opportunity that would have moved the United States toward normal ties with [North Korea],” he said at a seminar in Seoul.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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