German Green Party Leader Ozdemir Calls on Turkey to Recognize Genocide

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German Green Party Leader Özdemir Calls on Turkey to Recognize Genocide, Normalize Ties With Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL and Armenpress) — An ethnic Turk leading a major German political party urged Turkey to unconditionally establish diplomatic relations and open its border with Armenia as he ended a visit to Yerevan on Monday.

Cem Özdemir, the co-chairman of the Alliance ‘90/The Greens party, also predicted that Ankara will eventually recognize the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

“I think Turkey will do that sooner or later,” Özdemir said in an interview. “It’s a matter of time. I don’t know when it will happen. But I’m sure one day it will happen.”

“I don’t see a reason why Turkish leaders could not show that courage,” he said. “It’s not about the past. It’s about the future. Addressing the past opens the path towards the future.”

Underlining his own recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Özdemir laid flowers at the Genocide memorial in Yerevan at the start of his trip on March 12. President Serge Sargisian praised his stance on the issue when received the German Greens leader later on that day.

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Özdemir criticized the timing of the official Turkish ceremonies to remember the Battle of Gallipoli on April 24, but expressed confidence they will not deflect international attention from the Genocide centennial. “It won’t work because Turks remember that [the Gallipoli ceremonies] never took place on April 24,” he said. “It is the first time that they will take place on April 24.”

Özdemir, whose opposition party controls 10 percent of seats in the German Bundestag, also stressed the importance of normalizing Turkey’s relations with Armenia. “My message to President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, if I have a chance to talk to him, would be: open the border with Armenia — that would be a gesture on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide — and name the border after Hrant Dink. That would be another gesture to remember Hrant, who served all his life to bring Armenians and Turks together,” he said, referring to the prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist assassinated in Istanbul in 2007.

“And then of course, after the border is opened, a lot of things would be much easier,” Özdemir said. “Turks and Armenians would meet each other. The Turkish economy could invest in Armenia. It would also help Armenia to move closer towards Europe.”

Successive Turkish governments have made the normalization of their relations with Yerevan conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would satisfy Azerbaijan, Turkey’s main regional ally. They have accepted Baku’s claims that an open border would only encourage the Armenians to maintain the Karabagh status quo.

Özdemir insisted, however, that a Turkish-Armenian normalization would only facilitate a Karabagh settlement. “I personally believe that it would make it easier to negotiate between Armenia and Azerbaijan once Turkey could be an honest broker,” he said. “You can help bring the two sides together if you have diplomatic relations with both countries.”

Özdemir also addressed his country’s relations with Armenia. Germany has good relations with Armenia, he said, adding that the country would like to see a democratic, independent and more European Armenia.

”Armenia obviously belongs to Europe, if you look at the map, but we would like to see Armenia closer to Europe and therefore I’m sad that the Association Agreement unfortunately failed. I think it’s a missed opportunity. I understand that Armenia has strong relations with Russia, and there is nothing wrong about that. Energy and export relationship are one of the reasons. I do not see that as a contradiction to, at the same time, the Association Agreement with the European Union. Therefore I would love to see this put on the table again and then hopefully with a different result this time,” he noted.

Özdemir added, “Armenia has a lot to offer. I just had a chance to taste Armenian wine, unfortunately very briefly, because we had to meet with the president. On the other side I think we can help with renewable energy. Germany has extensive experience in that. In particular my party started it and the new government continues that with a more sustainable economy. At the same time the European Union is very experienced in the rule of law, strengthening democratic institutions with free media and strong parliamentarian system. There are many areas where we can collaborate.”