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TARC Moderator's Book Reveals Initiative's Anti-Armenian Intent
Harut Sassounian Commentary 2005 February
Based on an advanced copy of Phillips's book, "Unsilencing the Past: Track Two Diplomacy and Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation," analyst Emil Danielyan wrote two lengthy reports last week for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Here are some of the highlights of Phillips's interesting revelations, as reported by Danielyan:
- Phillips confirms that the US government was the driving force behind TARC. The idea was suggested to him by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, the number three figure in the State Department under the Clinton and Bush administrations. TARC held its first meeting in Vienna in early 2001.
- Phillips acknowledges that the State Department provided "some of TARC's direct costs." All of the sources of TARC's funds and their uses have not been made public.
- Phillips accuses Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian of reneging on his pledge to support TARC. Apparently, he would have preferred that Oskanian continue backing TARC, even after it became clear that TARC was a clever ploy to undermine the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
- Phillips bitterly complains: "Instead of standing by its commitments, the Kocharian government ran for cover." This made Phillips so furious that he slammed the Kocharian regime in an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal by calling it "corrupt and inept," and accusing Pres. Kocharian of "running a mafia state."
- Phillips attributes Oskanian's change of mind on TARC to criticism from Armenian "nationalist circles." Once TARC's anti-Armenian intent became clear, just about everyone in Armenia and the Diaspora opposed this sinister initiative. Shortly after TARC's creation, one of its Turkish members, Ozdem Sanberk, even gave an interview acknowledging that the purpose of this initiative was to block the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
- Gunduz Aktan, a Turkish member of TARC, who repeatedly and aggressively denies the Armenian Genocide, put his foot in his mouth by suggesting that an independent panel of experts review the facts of the Genocide. TARC engaged the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) for that purpose. Aktan boasted that he would "destroy" the ICTJ experts with his legal arguments during his testimony. Phillips says that Aktan appeared "nervous" after making his presentation. Aktan had good reason to be nervous. The ICTJ qualified the events of 1915 as genocide.
- Trying to give importance to his own efforts, Phillips claims that Turkey came within an inch of opening its border with Armenia in the summer of 2003. Showing his political naivetИ, Phillips says in his book: "I had hoped that Ankara would quietly open its border sometime during the dead of summer, when everyone was on holiday and not paying attention."
- Phillips writes that when Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul came to Washington in July 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice reminded him at every meeting that "the issue of genocide recognition was not going away. He was told that real progress was the best way of deflecting pressure." Not surprisingly, the US officials' real intent for pressuring Turkey into opening its border with Armenia was not the improvement of Armenia's economy, but the removal of the nettlesome Armenian Genocide issue from the agenda of the Congress.
- As further evidence of the sinister intent of the Bush Administration, Phillips writes that Vice President Cheney personally intervened by lobbying against a congressional resolution that barely mentioned the Armenian Genocide. "Cheney worked the phones and was assured by [House Speaker] Dennis Hastert that [the resolution] would be kept from the House floor," Phillips says.
- In an interesting revelation, Phillips reports that Pres. Kocharian was highly infuriated when the Armenian Genocide resolution was blocked by Pres. Clinton and Speaker Hastert. A month later, when Pres. Kocharian received Stephen Sestanovich, an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, the Armenian President was "in a foul mood and railed against Clinton's betrayal," Phillips says. This is yet another indication that Armenian officials, not just the Diaspora, care deeply about the Genocide issue.
- Phillips reveals that he helped arrange the controversial February 2001 interview between Pres. Kocharian and prominent Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand that "helped mollify [Turkish] concerns about Armenia's intentions." Apparently, Phillips promised Pres. Kocharian that should he make conciliatory statements during the interview, the Turks would then open the border with Armenia. Pres. Kocharian kept his end of the bargain.
Phillips did not or could not, since the border remained closed! -- Phillips wrongly blames "Armenian nationalists" for both of his failures - inability to have Turkey lift its blockade of Armenia and collapse of the reconciliation efforts. Phillips refuses to acknowledge that his profound ignorance of Armenian-Turkish issues played a much greater role in his failures than anything said or done by so-called Armenian nationalists.
More on Phillips's escapades, once we get hold of his book!