The following statement is from S.Ömür Budak, the consul general of the Republic of Turkey in Boston:
The background of the Turkish-Armenian disagreement differs in national narratives. But, by any measure, it is unfair to say “Turks would gladly forget what happened 100 years ago.” On the contrary, Turkey fully understands and respectfully recognizes the sufferings of Armenians. As stated by Turkish Prime Minister Davutoğlu on April 20th, we remember with respect the innocent Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives and offer our deep condolences to their descendants.
The war years witnessed many tragedies for almost all nations within the Ottoman Empire. All of us, Turks, Armenians and many others suffered immensely. No one dispute the suffering of Armenians. It is a shared suffering. Although Turkey always shied away from comparing its losses with others’, to recognize the vastness of the suffering by a particular group during what was the most violent war the history had ever seen by that time, does not diminish, belittle or in any way discredit the pain of others who suffered during the WWI.
Turkey did not let its losses fuel enmity against those who were involved in this painful period. In this context, aspiring for a common future with Armenia, Turkey is determined to take further steps towards normalizing relations between the two nations. There is a deep history of 800 years of coexistence, cultural tolerance, friendship, and mutual respect between the Turks and the Armenians.
As the grandchildren of two communities who have shared the same destiny in joy and sorrow hundred years ago, both sides have a joint responsibility: It is to heal the wounds of the past century and reestablish our human bonds.
Turkey will not remain indifferent to this responsibility and will continue to do its utmost for friendship and peace. The restoration of historical religious sites that are important for Armenians is a clear demonstration of this understanding. Since last year, more than a dozen Armenian churches have been restored, their name placards have been amended, so as to reflect their "Armenian heritage". It is both a historical and humane duty for Turkey to uphold the memory of Ottoman Armenians and the Armenian cultural heritage. The ongoing comprehensive work in the field of addressing and honoring the Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey is a testimony to our approach. With this in mind, a religious ceremony will be held by the Armenian Patriarchate on 24 April this year and Ottoman Armenians will be remembered in Turkey, just as they will be across the world.
The statement delivered by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, on the 20th of April 2015 re-emphasizes the sincerity of Turkey and further introduces concrete steps towards rapprochement.
Yet, politicizing a painful period in history, and doing so in a way that is disrespectful to the memories of others, is unfair.
A selective approach to history can ensure neither justice nor reconciliation. A just memory can only be realized by a thorough research and analysis of an independent group of historians on the documents and narratives in the archives of all relevant parties. “Genocide” is a legal term in international law with a very precise meaning. It describes a special intent to destroy all the members of a community, only because they belong to that community. Also, “genocide” is not a label that anyone can attribute to any given historic event, there has to be a decision by an international tribunal establishing the crime of genocide. It is essential that all thoughts, opinions and ideas regarding 1915, which is at the focus of an ongoing legitimate debate, be aired openly and freely in a democratic environment within the framework of the freedom of expression. Turkey is open to study better in a scholarly fashion the events of 1915 and our call for the establishment of a joint historical commission is an operational offer to that end.
We also call on all third parties to opt for a constructive position based on just memory and common peaceful future, instead of irritating historical wounds. We should keep in mind that there is no historical, academic or legal consensus on what happened in 1915. Any fair understanding of that period from a scholar or legal vantage point is labeled as denial and silenced. Such an atmosphere makes it hard for the two nations to normalize their relations. Yet, Turkey is not giving up on its efforts to establish an open dialogue with Armenia.
We must recognize both the pain and complexity of the past while together seeking a shared future committed to peace. This is the best way to move forward together. We will continue to work so as to save future generations from the domination of this bitter rhetoric and hostility, without forgetting the difficult periods in our common past. We are determined to take further steps towards the normalization of relations between the two nations. We sincerely hope Armenians also adopt a constructive approach for normalizing relations with Turks, instead of portraying them as demons. Demonizing the Turks will not bring any meaningful closure. A fair and balanced view of history, free from smear campaigns and manipulation, can go a long way in acknowledging and grieving the common pain of Armenians and Turks.
The following statement is from Ahmet Davutoglu, the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey:
During the last years of the Ottoman Empire, a very large number of Ottoman citizens from different ethnic and religious backgrounds endured great suffering, leaving deep scars in their memories. They had all lived together for centuries in peace and harmony.
As descendants of nations with different ethnic and religious origins who endured these sufferings amid the conditions of the First World War, we understand what the Armenians feel. We remember with respect the innocent Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives and offer our deep condolences to their descendants.
It is both a historical and humane duty for Turkey to uphold the memory of Ottoman Armenians and the Armenian cultural heritage.
With this in mind, a religious ceremony will be held by the Armenian Patriarchate on 24 April this year and Ottoman Armenians will be remembered in Turkey, just as they will be across the world.
On this day, it would have been much more meaningful if Turkey and Armenia had been able to commemorate Ottoman Armenians together with a ceremony that befits both nations. This is what our President, Mr.Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, stated in his message on 23rd of April 2014, when he was the Prime Minister.
We believe that when history is no longer exploited for political purposes, such a mature and morally sound outcome can be attained.
Ancient Anatolian civilization teaches us to stand up for our history, to remember both our joys and pains, to heal our wounds collectively and to look to the future together.
As I declared in my message on 20 January 2015, on the anniversary of the passing away of
Hrant Dink, “two ancient nations can demonstrate the wisdom to understand each other and to contemplate a future together”.
As a consequence of our historical responsibilities and humane mission, and without making any distinction among those who suffered, we respectfully remember today all those who lost their lives in those events that transpired a century ago.
We also believe that, in order to ease the ongoing suffering, it is just as important to face the past with honesty, as it is to remember the deceased.
It is possible to establish the causes of what happened in World War One and those who were responsible for it.
However, laying all blame - through generalizations - on the Turkish nation by reducing everything to one word and to compound this with hate speech is both morally and legally problematic.
The scars left by the exile and massacres that Turkish and Muslim Ottomans were subjected to a century ago are still vivid in our minds today.
To ignore this fact and discriminate between pains suffered is as questionable historically as it is mistaken morally.
Indeed, recent years have shown that nothing can be achieved by trying to impose conflicting narratives upon one another.
In this context, the memories and convictions of all Ottoman citizens must be heard and respected.
To reach the truth, it is sufficient to attain a just memory, empathy, respectful language and a reasonable and objective way of looking at things.
In Turkey, every viewpoint is freely expressed and openly debated. Documents and knowledge of every kind can be investigated. By providing these means, Turkey is taking significant and positive steps towards the building of a common future.
As descendants of two ancient peoples who a hundred years ago shared the same destiny whether in joy or in sorrow, our common responsibility and calling today is to heal century old wounds and re-establish our human ties once again.
Turkey will not remain indifferent to this responsibility and will continue to do its utmost for friendship and peace.
As such, we are calling on all third parties to adopt an approach based on just memory and a common peaceful future, rather than aggravating age old wounds.
It is with these feelings and thoughts that we once more commemorate with deep respect the Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives during the relocation in 1915 and we share in the grief of their children and grandchildren.