Turkey emphasizes a constructive approach to solving issues and would like to see its allies usher in a new era of understanding by refraining from politicizing historical controversies, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said, as he referred to the United States General James Guthrie Harbord’s mission in 1919.
“Turkey would like to see third countries – including allies like the U.S. – either help with ushering in this new understanding or be wary of efforts to politicize a historical controversy,” Akar said in a piece penned for RealClearDefense.
Akar highlighted that the report prepared after Harbord’s fact-finding mission demonstrated an objective analysis of the incidents at the time.
“Throughout its 1,603 pages, the report managed to see through the propaganda and the smoke screen and demonstrated objectivity along with intellectual honesty in its approach to the wartime relationship between the Ottoman Empire and its Armenian subjects,” Akar said, adding that some pro-Armenian lobbies in the U.S. had opposed his mission back then.
The general’s report noted that the Turks and Armenians had peacefully coexisted for centuries without “official instigation.”
“The 'official instigation' referred to here is the meddling of the great powers of the time in affairs of the region,” Akar said, adding that the report also showed the atrocities committed by Armenians against other subjects in the Ottoman Empire.
Noting that he does not want to “fuel the fire of antagonism,” Akar said Harbord’s report envisioned a more peaceful future for all people living in the region.
The defense minister also noted that then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had sent a letter to the president of Armenia in 2005, proposing to establish a joint historical commission, but the latter had not responded to the request.
“As someone who has personally studied this issue academically, I am glad to say that this offer stands, but I am dismayed to note that Turkey is yet to receive a response to this proposal or see the opening of Armenia’s own archives,” Akar said.
Referring to recent developments in the region, Akar noted that Armenia’s leaders can lend an ear to the messages sent by Turkey, which was one of the first countries to reject and condemn the recent coup attempt in Yerevan.
Recent reports claimed that U.S. President Joe Biden was preparing to recognize the 1915 events as "genocide" on Saturday, the 106th anniversary of the incidents.
Turkey's position on the 1915 events is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties, made worse by massacres conducted by militaries and militia groups from both sides. The mass arrests of prominent Ottoman Armenian politicians, intellectuals and other community members suspected of links with separatist groups, harboring nationalist sentiments and being hostile to Ottoman rule were gathered up in then-capital Istanbul on April 24, 1915. The date is commemorated as the beginning of later atrocities.
Yerevan has demanded an apology and compensation, while Ankara officially refuted the Armenian allegations over the incidents, saying that although Armenians died during the relocation, many Turks also lost their lives in attacks carried out by Armenian gangs in Anatolia.
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