ANKARA, Turkey—Our delegation of nine commentators and journalists from the U.S. (including two Armenians) met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Fri., March 19. Also present at the meeting was the Turkish ambassador to the U.S., Namik Tan, who was recalled after the House Foreign Affairs Committee vote on the Armenian Genocide. During most of the 45-minute meeting held at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, the only two issues the president discussed or answered questions about were related to the Armenian Genocide and Iran.
In his introductory remarks, the president of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), M. Rifat Hisarciklioglu, said to the president: “One of the members of the American delegation, Khatchig Mouradian, speaks Turkish with an Istanbul accent, even though he wasn’t born in Turkey.”
After that, Gul was told that the two main topics consistently on the agenda during the delegation’s meeting were the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s Iran policy. He allocated a considerable amount of time to talk about Turkey’s official policies on those two issues. (We will publish a detailed report on Gul’s remarks later this weekend).
Answering a question by my colleague Emil Sanamyan, Gul said that Turks, Armenians, and others all experienced a great tragedy during World War I. He noted, “Millions of Turks were deported from the Balkans after living there for hundreds of years, and three million of them were killed in the process.”
At the end of the meeting, as photographers took pictures of the delegation, I approached President Gul, who greeted me in Turkish. I told him (also in Turkish): “I learned Turkish because my grandparents and other elderly women who were survivors of the Armenian Genocide used to speak the language. Armenians had nothing to do with the fate of the Turks in the Balkans, nor do they deny what happened to the Turks in the Balkans. Most of those who survived 1915 are dead now. But what do you say to the few survivors who are still alive and waiting for acknowledgment from Turkey?”
Gul insisted that he understands the pain and suffering of all those who were killed during the tragedies.
Minutes later, as I was leaving the hall, he added, “My best regards to the elderly.”