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Dr Charles Tannock, MEP, responds to the article Danger Signs: Turkey, a friend and ally, is becoming perilously estranged from the West  in The Times - October 2007

A response to the article Danger Signs: Turkey, a friend and ally, is becoming perilously estranged from the West in The Times - 22/10/2007, in which the writer criticised the resolution by US House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Sir, if the recent congressional resolution on the Armenian genocide was, as you suggest, appallingly timed, when is a suitable time to talk about genocide? The Armenian lobby is so vociferous precisely because of the apparent conspiracy of silence that has surrounded the genocide for almost a century.

Turkey argues that Armenian fatalities in 1915 were largely caused by the First World War and because the Armenians sided with Russia, Turkey’s enemy. How does Turkey explain the estimated 500,000-plus deaths of Pontic Greeks and Assyrian Christians who were not allies of Tsarist Russia? The lack of any explanation would suggest that they were killed systematically because of their ethnicity or religion.

Reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia is an important element of Turkey’s effort to join the EU. Just as important is a lasting settlement to the conflict in Cyprus, which remains at an impasse. The handling of these critical issues will show us how prepared Turkey is to face up to its past before embracing its future.

Dr Charles Tannock, MEP
Brussels

Dr Charles Tannock's Plenary Talk at the European Parliament.

Charles Tannock (PPE-DE ). – Mr President, according to The Times newspaper of London, the recent US Congressional resolution on the Armenian genocide was appallingly timed. So, when is it a suitable time to talk about genocide?

The Armenian lobby is so vociferous in this Parliament precisely because of the apparent conspiracy of silence that has surrounded the genocide question for almost a century. The murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink should have provided a period of national reflection but, sadly, this did not happen.

Nevertheless, reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, including the reopening of the closed border, is an important element of Turkey’s efforts to join the EU. But, in my view, no true democracy can be in denial of its past, even its deepest and darkest secrets.

Just as important is a lasting settlement of the conflict in Cyprus, which remains at an impasse caused by the presence of occupying troops in an EU Member State as well as non-implementation of the Ankara Protocol.

Minority religious rights, in particular Christian, also give cause for concern. For instance, the Greek Orthodox seminary of Halki remains closed since 1971; the Assyrian Christians who fled to Germany and Sweden during the war with the PKK have been stripped of their Turkish citizenship, preventing them from claiming back their homes lost in the conflict. And Turkey sees the Alevis as no different from the majority Sunni Muslims and therefore does not recognise their separate religious needs.

Article 301 of the Penal Code on insulting Turkishness has resulted in many convictions and, in March – rather bizarrely in my view – a court in Istanbul issued an order denying access to the video-sharing website YouTube when allegations were made on the sexuality of the founding father of modern Turkey, Kemal Atatürk.

Speaking entirely personally and not on behalf of my party or my Group: a lot clearly still needs to be done.

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