Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission

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The Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission was established in July 2001 at the State Departments initiative and concluded in April 2004. TARC members were "civil society representatives who came together to explore cooperative activities between Turks and Armenians". The conclusion of the commission was basically a 3rd party report they commissioned on whether the actions of the Ottoman authorities constituted genocide. The conclusion of the International Center for Transitional Justice report was that yes, it did.

Founding Members:

New Members (2003-2004)


University Website Discloses TARC Proposals and More...

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

The controversial Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission, contrary to its members' repeated assurances that it has terminated its activities, is apparently alive and well, and plotting.

Even though TARC announced on April 14, 2004, (yet again) that "its work as a commission is ending," it made it clear that rather than fading away, it intended to expand the scope of its sinister work by stating: "We have decided to convene an initial meeting of a larger group than TARC to discuss the subject of Turkish Armenian rapprochement and reconciliation. This conference is planned for the fall of 2004. In addition we intend to support a Turkish Armenian consultative group which would meet at least annually to exchange views, review progress, and recommend actions to promote improved relations. TARC's website, www.tarc.info, will continue to function."

TARC stated that it would submit shortly its recommendations to "the concerned governments," probably meaning Turkey and Armenia, and also the United States, the main financial backer of this scheme, to the tune of several millions dollars.

TARC did not make its recommendations public. Its official website does not include this document. The website of the American University (AU) in Washington, D.C., however, not only reveals the full text of this internal document, but also discloses the vast number of Turkish-Armenian exchanges sponsored by the AU's Center for Global Peace which received its funding from the U.S. government. David L. Phillips, the Chairman of TARC, is the Director of the Center for Global Peace and Deputy Director of the Center for Preventive Action of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a senior advisor to the US Department of State.

Here are TARC's seven recommendations to the governments of Turkey and Armenia:

  • Official contacts should be further improved;
  • Opening of the Turkish Armenian border should be announced and implemented in 2004;
  • The two governments should publicly support civil society programs focused on education, science, culture, and tourism;
  • Standing mechanisms for cooperation on humanitarian disaster assistance and health care should be established;
  • Security and confidence building measures between Turkey and Armenia should be enhanced;
  • Religious understanding should be encouraged; and
  • The Turkish and Armenian people need to develop more confidence that their governments are working to surmount the difficulties related to the past.

To gain a better insight into the extent of time and effort as well as money spent by the U.S. government to divert the attention of Armenians away the genocide issue, I have summarized below, from the AU's website, the list of extensive activities undertaken by the Center for Global Peace to promote Turkish-Armenian exchanges:

    • Conflict Resolution Training;
    • Diaspora Dialogue: Regular meetings between Armenian and Turkish organizations in Washington, D.C., "to discuss issues affecting the Diaspora communities;"
    • Regional Mayors' Project: Meetings with mayors from bordering provinces in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey;
    • Turkish-Armenian Parliamentary Exchanges; and
    • Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission.
  • II - MEDIA
    • Documentaries for Turkish, Armenian and US television stations; Production of a CD;
    • Reciprocal visits by Turkish and Armenian journalists;
    • Radio programs broadcast in Turkey and Armenia; and
    • Women's magazine published by Turkish and Armenian women (15,000 copies, 96 pages).
    • Plans to renovate the Akhtamar Church; and
    • Dialogue between Armenian and Turkish religious leaders; and
    • Exchanges between Turkish and Armenian musicians.
    • Exchanges between Turkish and Armenian businessmen;
    • Marketing network of the Caucasus;
    • Regional economic working group; and
    • Cooperative manufacturing effort for textile producers in Turkey and Armenia.
    • Mutual Perceptions Research Project (Armenia/Turkey and Armenia/Azerbaijan);
    • Regional Academic Cooperation;
    • Visiting scholars; and
    • Youth Peace Education.
    • Exchange visits by Armenian and Turkish women; and
    • Institutional exchanges.

The main problem with TARC's patently obvious recommendations and the extensive Turkish-Armenian exchanges organized by the American University's Center for Global Peace is that they are directed by a group (TARC) that is set up and funded by a foreign entity (the Bush Administration) for the purpose of stifling the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the U.S. Congress as well as the legislatures of all other countries.

As I reported back in 2001, Ozdem Sanberk, one of the Turkish members of TARC, had blurted out the following admission in a moment of weakness or inattention: "The basic goal of our commission is to impede the initiatives put forth every year in the U.S. Congress and parliaments of Western countries on 'the genocide issue'.... The key goal is to prevent 'the genocide' issue from being regularly brought onto the agenda in Western countries.... The significant matter for us is that 'the genocide' issue is not discussed by the American Congress anymore. As long as we continue the dialogue, the issue won't be brought to the congressional agenda. If it is not discussed in Congress, we, meaning Turkey, will gain from that. The US Congress will see that there is a channel of dialogue between Turks and Armenians and decide that 'there is no necessity for the Congress to take such a decision while such a channel exists."

TARC disbands

Turkish-Armenian Panel Says Mission Accomplished

By Emil Danielyan

The U.S.-backed Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) said on Wednesday that it has achieved its main objectives and is disbanding to pave the way for broader contacts between the two estranged peoples.

The announcement came after a three-day meeting in Moscow attended by three Turkish and four Armenian members of the private body. One of them, political scientist Andranik Migranian, lives and works in the Russian capital.

“TARC is announcing that its work as a commission is ending,” they said in a statement obtained by RFE/RL. “TARC’s term was to be one year, but the course of events required a longer period to accomplish our goals.

“We feel that advances in civil society contacts are now permanent and will only grow in time. We also feel that beyond our recommendations, official relations can now best be continued and advanced independent of the TARC structure.”

The commission, which was set up in July 2001 with close U.S. State Department involvement, finished its work by approving a set of “recommendations” to the governments of Turkey and Armenia on how to improve their strained relations. Their content was not disclosed.

“The recommendations have a better chance of being implemented if they are presented privately,” one commission source told RFE/RL. He said it will be up to the two governments to decide whether they should be made public.

TARC is likely to have reaffirmed its strong support for the unconditional reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border sealed by Ankara eleven years ago out of solidarity with Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan. The current Turkish government has signaled over the past year its readiness to stop linking that with a pro-Azerbaijani solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Azerbaijan is strongly opposed to the lifting of the Turkish blockade, fearing that it would lose a serious bargaining chip in Karabakh peace talks. Azerbaijani leaders have issued Ankara with a series of warning in recent weeks, with President Ilham Aliev going as far as to claim that an open border between Armenia and Turkey would make a Karabakh settlement impossible.

The Azeri alarm suggests that the Turkish cabinet is seriously considering reopening the frontier for travel and commerce, a move which would please both the United States and the European Union. The U.S. has for years been pressing the Turks to soften their Armenian policy. Visiting Yerevan late last month, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Ankara has been busy dealing with the events in Iraq and Cyprus.

“I hope that as those concerns are ameliorated there will be a return of their attention to reopening the border,” Armitage said.

It is not clear whether TARC recommendations also address the other thorny issue in Turkish-Armenian relations: the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. The commission members have not discussed it in detail since receiving in January 2003 the findings of a third-party study commissioned by them. The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), a New York-based human rights organization, ruled that the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians fits into the internationally accepted definition of genocide.

TARC also announced plans to hold a big conference on “Turkish-Armenian rapprochement and reconciliation” this fall. “In addition we intend to support a Turkish Armenian consultative group which would meet at least annually to exchange views, review progress, and recommend actions to promote improved relations,” the statement said.

The Moscow meeting was chaired by Joseph Montville, a former U.S. diplomat known as the author of the concept of “track two diplomacy” that calls for direct contacts between civil societies in conflict resolution. David Phillips, an adviser to the U.S. State Department who has coordinated the panel’s activities, was in Yerevan on a brief low-key visit on Sunday. He then proceeded to Ankara.

TARC has faced strong criticism from nationalist groups in Armenia and especially its Diaspora ever since its creation. They say that its activities hamper international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Migranian and other Armenian members have denied the charge, pointing among other things to the ICTJ study.


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