Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 137

On July 9 in Geneva, Armenian and Turkish public figures established the Reconciliation Commission, an unofficial body of distinguished representatives of civil society, the first structured initiative of its type by Armenians and Turks. Under its published terms of reference, the commission will seek to promote mutual understanding and goodwill between Armenians and Turks, and to encourage improved relations between the governments of Armenia and Turkey. It proposes to address the “serious differences” between the two sides with a view to creating public awareness about the need for reconciliation. To that end it will support collaborative projects in business, tourism, culture, education, the media and political confidence-building. It will, furthermore, enlist historians, psychologists and legal experts to address issues of common concern in the two nations. The commission plans to develop recommendations to governments with regard to the contentious issues between these nations. Those issues, alluded to in the commission’s founding document, stem from the clash of the two nationalisms and mutual bloodletting of the past century.

The commission’s Armenian members include former Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Arzumanian, Yerevan University Professor and ex-diplomat David Hovhanissian, Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) Chairman Van Z. Krikorian and the influential Moscow-based foreign policy adviser Andranik Migranian. Arzumanian and Hovhanissian held their official posts during the rule of the Armenian Pan-National Movement and then President Levon Ter-Petrosian, (1991-98), a regime that had explored the possibilities of detente with Turkey, before being overthrown by hardliners, among them current President Robert Kocharian.

The Turkish members include: former Ambassador Gunduz Aktan, a top columnist for the Turkish Daily News; former Foreign Minister Ilter Turkmen; ex-Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ozdem Sanberk, currently head of a leading Istanbul think tank; Ustun Erguder, former president of Bogazici University (the historic Robert College); retired General Sadi Erguvenc; and Vamik Volkan, a Cyprus-born University of Virginia psychiatrist.

The early reactions in Yerevan, Ankara and Baku are marked by wait-and-see attitudes. Armenian opinion both in the country and in the diaspora seems sharply divided on the issue. Some opinion groups favor the initiative while the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutiun and allied diaspora groups reject it (Turkish Daily News, Noyan-Tapan, Snark, AAA release, July 10-16).