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GROONG INTERVIEW WITH TURKISH-ARMENIAN RECONCILIATION COMMISSION (TARC) MEMBERS VAN Z. KRIKORIAN AND ANDRANIK MIGRANIAN Armenian News Network / Groong August 4, 2001 By Groong Research & Analysis Group GROONG: How were you approached to join the committee? Who approached you? What were the criteria for your selection? JOINT ANSWER: All four of the Armenian members of the Commission came together on this issue as a result of a number of conversations and knowledge of one another's background and work over the years. The two of us have known each other since 1991 when Van went to Moscow as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe meetings. With Raffi Hovannisian, who was in Moscow as a representative of the Assembly, the Assembly organized parallel NGO programs on Nagorno Karabagh and also arranged for congressional observers to travel to Armenia for the referendum on independence. When the idea for a Reconciliation Commission began to take form, we came together. We established the following minimum criteria for selecting Armenian Commissioners: * must have significant international and national political experience; * must be fluent in English; * must be willing to work as part of a team. Q: We've read that the imbalance of four Armenians and six Turks will be mitigated in the future. Why did we end up with four Armenians and six Turks to start with? JA: We began with three or four on each side. We may well increase to six Armenians or some other number. The process is explicitly intended to be flexible. But the most important criterion is that all participants have the ability to work well together. The chemistry and productivity of the current team have been highly successful. Q: Who else was approached to join, outside of the current commission members? Why are there no Armenians from Western Europe, South America or the Middle East on the commission? JA: We are open to including those who fit within the Commission's criteria. We certainly recognize that we need to include others and intend to do so. It is also important to point out that we do not pretend to speak for all Armenians. We hope to make recommendations. We intend to engage in activities promoting reconciliation and to be judged as Commission members on what we produce. We encourage others to engage in similar activities. Q: Ozdem Sanberk is quoted as saying: "The intent is not to find what the truth is, but it is to open new horizons for the future and enhance mutual understanding." Ilter Turkmen is quoted as saying: "The commission's task is not to come to a historical judgement." Gunduz Aktan is quoted as saying: "When it comes to qualifying events 85 years ago in the Ottoman, Empire, Turks around the table will not accept them as genocide." With only Turkish hard-liners and Armenian moderates on the Commission, one can see why Armenians feel uncomfortable about which way matters could be "reconciled." Why were Turkish scholars and dialogue advocates such as Akcam, Zarakolu and Berktay left out of the commission? Why is the Turkish side of the Commission full of only hard-liners who have career-long histories of denying the Armenian Genocide? JA: All three statements come from top diplomats and each is distinguishable. We all agree that this Commission is not focused on determining whether or not there was a Genocide. The international community and we already take that as a non-negotiable fact, and this fact is the basis for our discussions. How this Commission deals with it and what individual Commissioners say in their personal capacities are two different questions. We disagree with your premise that the Turkish side is full of only hard-liners. We note that we did not play a role in their selection and vice versa. However, we all believe the Turkish Commissioners deserve respect for joining this endeavor, which is not without risk. Q: The concerted effort of the advocacy groups in Washington has yielded powerful advances in the 90s, and should not be slowed down or abandoned until our goals are achieved. If Turks observe that Armenians relaxed just because a commission has been created, then commission and talk is all we will get. If we continue with the drive, then they will realize that the commission must achieve results - or they may face defeat. During conflicts, some of the fiercest battles continue on the field while peace talks are being held, in order to maneuver for maximal negotiating power. Does the Assembly plan to continue with the full-court press in Washington, to drive towards U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide? VAN KRIKORIAN: We disagree with your analysis and with your use of the term "recognition" for the United States. We use the term "reaffirmation" because as indicated in official government archives, the U.S. has recognized the Armenian Genocide in the past. The Assembly is and will continue to be the leading proponent of the issue in the U.S. and I can say categorically and proudly that in this regard, the Assembly's record is unsurpassed. Q: We are informed that for various reasons, the Assembly is planning to take a break from the active pursuit of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the U.S. government. Is this true, and if so, what are the reasons for it? Will the Assembly continue the aggressive pursuit of the passage of bills to recognize the Armenian Genocide? VK: Thankfully, most Armenians recognize nonsense when they hear it, and view the allegations used in your premise as such. Your information is false and we would appreciate learning its source. The Assembly continues to be more active than any other organization in pursuit of the reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide by the U.S. Government. President Bush's April 24th statement this year, while omitting the term "Genocide," was a textbook definition of Genocide and clearly surpassed in many ways what President Clinton said during the previous eight years. It is no small victory and is an example of the Assembly's practice of working aggressively but quietly and professionally. In so doing, the Assembly has established its well-earned reputation in Washington - among leaders on Capitol Hill, the White House and the Administration, as well as with think tank experts and professional journalists - as a skilled, tenacious and authoritative advocate. We publish our goals and our results. In addition, the work of the Armenian National Institute and the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial project, two blocks from the White House, are massive and speak volumes about our commitment. Q: So then, there is no truth to the statements that the Assembly approached Congressman Radanovich to request that he not re-introduce H. Res. 596 this year? VK: No, the Assembly did not approach Congressman Radanovich with the request that not he reintroduce H. Res. 596 this year. The Assembly and related organizations are implementing our broad-based genocide reaffirmation strategy. Until the TARC was announced, the ANC was in agreement with our congressional strategy. Q: In 1991 and 1992, you had business dealings with Turkey to develop a port in the city of Trebizond, but these plans were derailed because Turkey demanded that in exchange for access to this port, Armenians stop demanding recognition for the Genocide. Do you, or other Assembly leaders, currently have such business dealings with Turks or Turkey? As leaders of the Armenian community of America, are you willing to make public your financial and business dealings, to assure the community that there are no conflicts of interest? VK: Let me answer the second part first. I'm attaching a copy of the Assembly's Conflict of Interest Policy that was in effect before I became chairman and that addresses your concern. I can report that I am in compliance with it. Neither I, nor my family has financial or business dealings with Turks or Turkey. My primary source of income is as a partner in the law firm of Vedder Price. I am willing to let you examine my tax returns at my law office in New York or at the Assembly's office in Washington, DC. I am willing to fill out a financial disclosure sheet, including a listing of all my assets and liabilities, as well as those of my family, to establish that no possible conflicts exist. Those who are busy spreading false rumors to the contrary should be ashamed of themselves. In the interests of healthy debate, it would be valuable if you asked the same of the chairmen of the policy-making boards of other organizations but I do not condition my willingness to make these disclosures on their agreement. The Assembly and all of its related organizations are perfectly transparent in their finances, which are published annually and go through an independent audit by an outside firm. The firm's report is distributed at our annual meeting. We also publish the names of our members and the fact that the Assembly members are present in all fifty states, growing faster than any other similar organization. Although I am not the Assembly's Conflict of Interest Officer, I am not presently aware of any other Assembly leader who is in violation of our Conflict of Interest Policy. With regard to your first question, the information you have obtained is wrong. Hirair Hovnanian and I were asked to look at development of the Trebizond port as part of then-President Ter Petrossian's efforts to reach out to Turkey. We met with the Turkish foreign minister and other government officials, none of whom demanded that in exchange for access, the "Armenians stop demanding recognition for the Genocide." As I am sure you know, Armenia has a treaty right to open communication through Turkey to the Black Sea. The Trebizond project can be viewed as a trial balloon. Turkey failed that trial, and in so doing, President Ter-Petrossian's position was internationally recognized as reasonable and of long-term benefit to Armenia. Despite the rhetoric to the contrary, it is worth noting that most of the countries which have acknowledged the Armenian Genocide since independence, did so while Levon Ter-Petrossian was president and Alex Arzoumanian was foreign minister or United Nations ambassador. I also recognize that the Trebizond project has been the subject of numerous rumors and innuendo. The record is clear and Hirair Hovnanian and I have long since stopped worrying about those who resort to such smear tactics. Q: What do you think about statements that this commission in general, and the Assembly's presence on it specifically, may divide the Armenian-American advocacy groups? VK: Armenian-Americans are already divided. But the reaction from the mainstream members of our community has been overwhelmingly positive. It is clear that those who are opposed to the Commission have shown that they are only isolating themselves from the mainstream. More significantly, the ANCA began to distance itself from the mainstream community and the Assembly long before the Commission was announced. The Assembly is accused of being evangelical in our zeal to be inclusive. But, just as the Assembly refused to be held hostage when the ARF bolted from the Assembly years ago, we recognize that the interests of the overwhelming majority of Armenian-Americans cannot be held hostage to the ARF leadership today. Our agenda is public and we continue to welcome cooperation from the ANCA; the choice is theirs to cooperate or not. Q: The ARF is not happy with the creation of this Commission in a secretive manner and which excludes them. They've written that they're concerned with the commission's effects on Armenian national interests and intra-Diaspora relations, such as the possibility of a rift in the Armenian advocacy groups in Washington - primarily the Assembly and the ANCA. Why wasn't the ANCA invited to join the Commission also? VK: We are not presently aware of anyone within the ARF/ANCA ranks who can meet the criteria for membership. We are open to discussing the matter but it is clear that their official reaction confirms the wisdom of our judgment. The ARF/ANCA is a political party primarily interested in gaining power in Armenia and we felt that it would interfere with their designee's ability to act as a team player on the Commission. For example, one of the ARF's immediate and continuing reactions to the creation of the Commission is to call for the resignation of the Foreign Minister of Armenia, Vartan Oskanian, and to replace him with one of their party members. The initial basis for this political tactic was the false accusation that the Foreign Minister knew about the Commission prior to the announcement, but that President Robert Kocharian did not. When the President's spokesman fairly acknowledged that, of course, the President knew about the Commission's formation, the ARF devised new grounds to criticize the Foreign Minister. The Armenians on this Commission must be above petty partisan behavior if this effort is going to have any chance of success. Second, the ARF leadership was advised of the Commission's formation before it was officially announced. The ARF leadership was offered the opportunity to meet in person so that its leadership could react based on factual information. Instead, the ARF leadership chose to attack first and ask questions later, and has yet to accept our offer to meet. As Alex Arzoumanian said, we are still open to reconciliation with the ARF but we feel that all Armenians, and certainly this effort, ought not to be held captive to partisan politics. Q: For the record, I have heard from ARF sources that they were advised of the commission's formation only short hours before it was announced by the New York Times. JA: When the Commission met in Geneva, we did not have agreement on the Terms of Reference or a public announcement. After negotiating the final terms, we agreed to wait before making an announcement. If we had not agreed, the proceedings would have remained confidential in accordance with our prior agreement. After we agreed, and before we announced the formation of the Commission, an official telephone call was placed to the ARF Bureau to alert it to the forthcoming announcement. The call was returned the following day, and the ARF representative expressed thanks for the notice. A substantive discussion took place and tentative dates for a meeting were set. Regrettably, as stated above, the ARF/ANCA chose a different course rather than following through with the meeting. I would also note that this is a very complicated issue. Aside from the above, there was an ARF Bureau Member who knew about the Vienna meetings, which preceded the Geneva meetings and announcement. This individual either did not share the information with his colleagues or has chosen not to acknowledge it at this time. Q: Do you and the Assembly have an "exit strategy" from the commission, that is, have you defined criteria to measure acceptable progress and success, or failure of this process, so that you can evaluate whether to continue or when to quit? What are these criteria? JA: The Commission's Terms of Reference anticipate a reevaluation after one year. We have defined criteria to measure acceptable progress but at this time will make no public comment on it. We want to repeat that reconciliation is a process and not an event. We all recognize that there are more reasons for this effort to fail than succeed. But, we believe in it and we deserve the right to a fair chance, which is why we are grateful for the individual and organizational support we have received. Q: This Commission is pretty much Track Two diplomacy, searching for a path to official recognition. Regarding government involvement in the work of the Commission, there have been statements admitting and denying involvement by the governments of Armenian, Turkey, and the U.S. State Department. Can you clarify where each came in, how they facilitated, suggested people, resources and options to the Commission? Would you say that their involvement amounts to an implicit or explicit approval of the process of this commission? What does each one want out of it? JA: Questions concerning the various governments should be addressed directly to them. We are grateful for all the support we have received. Regarding what each government wants, we expect it is maximum return with minimum risk - which is why Track Two is what it is. Q: Throughout the Clinton Administrations, the U.S. State Department was tuned to support Jewish claims for reparations from German industry which used slave labor, from Swiss banks which kept Nazi gold and other funds stolen from Nazi victims, and to facilitate bringing to justice war criminals during the Holocaust who resided in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Is the State Department envisioning such a role of support for the Armenian drive to a just recognition of the Genocide? VK: Jewish claims followed after Germany lost World War II and acknowledged the Holocaust. Two years ago, the Assembly thought to try to reverse the Holocaust process, believing that an attempt to work on the Ottoman bank accounts issue would be a step toward Turkish acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. At that time, the Armenian National Institute, the Armenian Bar Association and the Assembly received a commitment from the State Department that it would raise the bank accounts issue with Turkey. We continue to believe that this and related issues need to be pursued. Q: How do you expect that this dialogue will make Turkish society more open in general, and better educated about 1915? ANDRANIK MIGRANIAN: If we succeed in convincing leading members of Turkish civil society, all of whom are well connected to their country's elite that acceptance of the Armenian Genocide is in Turkey's best interest, it would be the shortest road to reconciliation of our two peoples and two countries. Through and with the Turkish Commissioners, we will have direct access to Turkey's elite and public at large in order to prepare them for acceptance of the Genocide. If we accomplish that, I will consider that the Commission has delivered an invaluable service. If not, it means that neither the Turkish Government nor its civil society is ready for that kind of breakthrough at this time. It would harm Turkey's image on the international stage and support the notion that the Turkish government and its people are not yet ready to behave according to the norms of modern, civilized nations. Q: Irrespective of the label attached to describe 1915, what is the Turkish government ready to do, to remedy some of its consequences (overhaul genocide denial in history curricula, abandoned properties, architectural monuments), things to which President Kocharian referred to in his famous interview with CNN-Turk? What ideas have been considered? AM: While I could describe in general what our fellow Commissioners from Turkey are ready to recommend right now to their government, we have recently all agreed to refrain from publicly discussing ideas currently on the table. Their positions may change during the process, which is new and in its early stages of development. Eventually, if we come to mutual understandings, then I have no doubt that the recommendations of the Turkish members will provide a basis for future Turkish government policy. Q: Mr. Krikorian, You have mentioned talk about a special course being introduced in Turkish universities on the subject of the Genocide. Were concrete ideas floated around? Why should the Genocide, this dark chapter in Turkish history, not be taught earlier in the life of Turkish students, - Middle school, high school, etc. - and reach greater numbers, not only those who continue to higher-ed? VK: I will refrain from discussing ideas currently on the table. Regarding Genocide education in Turkish schools, it is clear that the state policy of denial and its impact on the Turkish education system has been destructive to the Turkish people. We believe that the more they know about the Armenian Genocide, including both the stories of individual Turks who saved Armenians and those which describe the evil that a government can perpetrate, the better. Q: You stated that the Turkish commission members pretty much agree that there is a three-generation-long nationwide brainwashing on the genocide issue in Turkey. However, we've read in many articles, including from the New York Times, that Turks and Kurds in Turkey know very well what happened to the Armenians during World War I. Is the problem with the Turkish nation, or the Turkish state? JA: We believe that the problem with Genocide denial is complex and does not fit easily within the two alternatives you have suggested. Clearly, there is a big difference between knowing what happened and calling it a "Genocide." In the past, substituting the word "massacres" for "Genocide" had been suggested in various resolutions and decrees, which would have assured easy passage. In the U.S., the Assembly rejected those at every turn, even though some in the community might have been willing to agree. We anticipate that a large part of the Commission's work will entail trying to determine the most effective way of dealing with these issues. However, we have agreed not to speak for the Turkish Commission members, and want to respect that. Q: What other issues, outside of the Armenian Genocide is on this commission's agenda? * Is a solution to Karabakh discussed? * Is a territorial exchange between Armenia and Azerbaijan discussed? * Are the new demands imposed by Turkey on Armenia - such as the opening of a corridor through Meghri, to link Nakhichevan with Azerbaijan, - discussed? * Armenian monument preservation and attribution in Turkey? JA: Our Terms of Reference are public. Without violating our commitment not to disclose specific items on the Commission's agenda, we can state definitively that issues related to Nagorno Karabagh, territorial exchanges between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the "opening of a corridor through Meghri" are completely and explicitly outside the purview of the Commission. We disagree with those who might try to link the issues; our Commission has enough to address and a direct Armenian-Turkish dialogue is long overdue. Q: Will the commission have a secretariat? Where will it be based? JA: We thank the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna for structuring this process. We did not include plans for a secretariat in our terms of reference, but we acknowledge the possibility as the process develops. We have received positive messages encouraging us to open a web site, and based on the substantial popular support we receive, expect there will be many more good ideas that we did not have in mind. We encourage those as we believe that the Armenian people want progress and results rather than outdated rhetoric. Thank you. * * * * * ARMENIAN ASSEMBLY OF AMERICA, INC. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST POLICY Purpose - Because of its public purposes, charitable (educational, research, etc.) the Armenian Assembly of America, Inc. (the "Corporation") has a special obligation to uphold the public trust. Each trustee, director, officer and employee of the Corporation, therefore, is required to conduct all the affairs of the Corporation in the best interest of the Corporation, to avoid the appearance of a conflict between his or her personal interest and the interests of the Corporation and to ensure that he or she does not benefit personally from his or her position as a director, trustee, officer or employee. This obligation also requires that the Legal Affairs Committee (the "Committee") be fully informed regarding transactions and arrangements into which the Corporation enters and with respect to which directors, trustees, officers or employees may have an interest. To ensure fairness in the Board's decision-making processes and to protect the Corporation's interests when it is contemplating entering into a transaction or arrangement that might benefit the private interest of any of its directors, officers, trustees, agents, consultants and employees, the Board of Directors (the "Board") has adopted the following Conflicts of Interest Policy. Definitions ----------- INTERESTED PERSON - Any director, trustee, officer, employee, agent, consultant or member of a committee of the Board who has a direct or indirect Interest, as defined below, is an Interested Person. INTEREST - A person has an Interest if the person or his or her family member (including a parent, sibling, spouse or child) has, or in the near future will have, directly or indirectly: * a compensation arrangement or other interest in a transaction with the Corporation or with any entity or individual with which the Corporation has entered into a transaction or arrangement, or * an ownership or investment interest in or affiliation with any entity with which the Corporation has entered into a transaction or arrangement, or * an ownership or investment interest in or compensation arrangement or other affiliation with any entity or individual with which the Corporation is negotiating, or contemplating negotiating, a transaction or arrangement. * any involvement with a project or other matter in the Corporation has an interest. Compensation includes direct and indirect remuneration as well as gifts or favors that are substantial in nature. Procedures DUTY TO DISCLOSE - Upon the first knowledge by an Interested Person that the Corporation, the Board or a committee thereof is considering or has considered a transaction or arrangement with an entity or individual with which the Interested Person has an Interest, the Interested Person must disclose the existence and nature of his or her Interest to the Committee. PROCEDURES FOR ADDRESSING THE CONFLICT - After disclosure of the Interest, the Interested Person may not participate in consideration of the proposed transaction or arrangement, shall not vote on such transaction or arrangement, and shall not be present for the consideration of or vote on such transaction unless the Committee requests information or interpretation from the Interested Person. The Committee shall then determine (or refer to): a) the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Board of Directors; or b) the Board, for a determination of} whether the transaction or arrangement is in the Corporation's best interests and is fair and reasonable to the Corporation and shall make a decision whether to enter into the transaction or arrangement in accordance with such determination. Such determination shall be made by a vote sufficient for such purpose without counting the vote of any Interested Person. In determining whether the transaction or arrangement is in the Corporation's best interests, there shall be a review of available information regarding the cost or benefit of comparable transactions or arrangements, if any (and may investigate whether the Corporation should and is able to obtain with reasonable efforts a more advantageous transaction or arrangement that would not give rise to an Interest.) A disinterested person or committee may be appointed to investigate alternatives to the proposed transaction or arrangement. Interested Directors or committee members may be counted in determining the presence of a quorum at a meeting which authorizes such a transaction or arrangement. RECORDS OF PROCEEDINGS - The minutes of the Board or the Committee considering the Interest of an Interested Person shall contain: * the names of the Interested Person(s) who disclosed or otherwise were found to have an Interest, * the nature of the Interest, * a record of any determination as to whether a transaction or arrangement was in the best interests of and fair and reasonable to the Corporation, notwithstanding the Interest, and the specific reasons supporting such determination, and * the names of the persons who were present for the discussions on the transaction or arrangement and a record of any votes taken in connection therewith. VIOLATIONS OF THE CONFLICTS OF INTEREST POLICY - If the Committee has reasonable cause to believe that an Interested Person has failed to disclose an actual or possible Interest, it shall inform the Interested Person of the basis for such belief and afford the Interested Person an opportunity to explain the alleged failure to disclose. If, after hearing the response of the Interested Person and making such further investigation as may be warranted in the circumstances, the Committee determines that the Interested Person has in fact failed to disclose an actual or possible Interest, it shall take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action which may include: a) reconsideration of whether the transaction or arrangement was in the best interests of and was fair and reasonable to the Corporation at the time it was undertaken; b) recommending the Interested Person's removal from the Board; and c) any other action. COMPENSATION COMMITTEES - (An Interested Person may not be a member of any committee that has the responsibility for fixing his or her compensation.) (A voting member of any committee of the Board charged with fixing the compensation of officers of the Corporation and who receives compensation for services such as an officer, may not be present for or participate in the discussions regarding, or vote on matters pertaining to, his or her own compensation.) ANNUAL STATEMENTS - Each director, officer and member of a committee of the Board shall annually sign a statement which affirms that such person: (a) has received a copy of this Conflicts of Interest Policy, and (b) has read and understands this Policy, and has agreed to comply with this Policy. PERIODIC REVIEW - To ensure that the Corporation operates in a manner consistent with its charitable purposes and its federal tax exemption, periodic reviews will be conducted, in appropriate cases, to determine whether compensation and benefits arrangements and other transactions are reasonable and the results of arms-length negotiations. CONFIDENTIALITY - Except with Board approval, and as used for the Corporation's purposes, the Committee shall maintain the confidentiality of information submitted in implementing this policy. * * * * * Terms of Reference TURKISH - ARMENIAN RECONCILIATION COMMISSION Terms of Reference are agreed to on this 9th day of July 2001 between Armenians and Turks from civil society who, working in an individual capacity, agree to establish The Reconciliation Commission. The Reconciliation Commission grew out of meetings held at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. The Reconciliation Commission seeks to promote mutual understanding and good will between Turks and Armenians and to encourage improved relations between Armenia and Turkey. The Reconciliation Commission appreciates that there are serious differences between Armenians and Turks, as well as obstacles to normal relations between Armenia and Turkey. The Reconciliation Commission hopes, through its efforts, to build on the increasing readiness for reconciliation among Turkish and Armenian civil societies including members of Diaspora communities. The Reconciliation Commission supports contact, dialogue and cooperation between Armenian and Turkish civil societies in order to create public awareness about the need for reconciliation and to derive practical benefits. The Reconciliation Commission will directly undertake activities and catalyze projects by other organizations. The Reconciliation Commission will develop recommendations to be submitted to concerned governments. The Reconciliation Commission will support collaborative track two activities in the fields of business, tourism, culture, education and research, environment, media, confidence building, and other areas which are to be determined. The Reconciliation Commission will secure expertise based on project requirements, and may include specialists on historical, psychological and legal matters, as well as other topics. The Reconciliation Commission will review progress after one year. The Reconciliation Commission is established by: Gunduz Aktan (Ankara) Alexander Arzoumanian (Yerevan) Ustun Erguder (Istanbul) Sadi Erguvenc (Istanbul) David Hovhannissian (Yerevan) Van Z. Krikorian (New York) Andranik Migranian (Moscow) Ozdem Sanberk (Istanbul) Ilter Turkmen (Istanbul) Vamik D. Volkan (Charlottesville) © Copyright 2001, Armenian News Network / Groong