Middle East Institute Center for Turkish Studies Gonul Tol moderating the keynote discussion with Kurdish HDP Co-Leader Selahattin Demirtas.
By Danielle Saroyan
Armenian Agenda Associate Editor
On December 3, during the Middle East Institute 6th Annual Conference on Turkey in Washington, D.C., Armenian Diocese Archbishop Vicken Aykazian asked Kurdish HDP Party Co-Leader Selahattin Demirtas about whether or not he sees Turkey acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.
“More than one and a half million Armenians were massacred and this year is the 100th anniversary for the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. Two thousand seven hundred churches that are occupied and destroyed, only one was given back in your birth place, Diyarbakir,” Archbishop Aykazian said. “You, as a politician, what do you think the Turkish or when do you think the Turkish government is going to accept the Armenian Genocide?”
Armenian Diocese Archbishop Vicken Aykazian asks Kurdish HDP Party Co-Leader Selahattin Demirtas about Turkey acknowledging the Armenian Genocide during the Middle East Institute 6th Annual Conference on Turkey in Washington, D.C.
During his response, Demirtas said that there needs to be a discussion between the two countries on this issue. There have been measures in the past to normalize relations, such as a friendly soccer match between Armenia and Turkey, but it is time for Turkey to overcome hostility and confront it face to face.
Kurdish HDP Party Co-Leader Selahattin Demirtas responds to Armenian Diocese Archbishop Vicken Aykazian’s question about Turkey acknowledging the Armenian Genocide during the Middle East Institute 6th Annual Conference on Turkey in Washington, D.C. (See the full Turkish text and the English translation on the Assembly’s YouTube page).
Armenian Assembly of America Regional Analyst Alin Ozinian translated Demirtas’ response from Turkish to English.
“Turkey should overcome this and courageously discuss it. AKP Government had handled the subject in the past. At that time, when Abdullah Gul was the President and Erdogan was the Prime Minister, friendly mutual [between Turkey-Armenia] steps had been taken. National [soccer] matches organized and border opened for the counter trade. In few words, they [Turkey-Armenia] tried to create an environment of mutual trust. But it was a process which needed durability. There are historical events which force us to confront the past.
We need a confrontation which should not aim to accuse the Turkish public. This confrontation should not make new wounds. This confrontation should unite the people who all feel this pain and suffering. This confrontation also should restore the trust between people and ensure this  will not repeat. Confrontation must be such a thing.
What I am trying to explain here does not make any sense in Turkey. Turkey does not work in this direction. “Truth Commissions” can help both sides for confrontation. We [HDP] always proposed to create similar commissions but never get a result. It is hard to make a prediction when Turkish society or the Turkish state officially can face this. But I know we can’t go further while we are leaving behind these sorrow. If we find an opportunity to recover relations, not blame the Turkish people, discuss the issue, and make a sincere apology, that will be good job, I assume…
About the murder of Tahir Elçi, I express my condolences…”
Later on, during the third panel titled “Turkey’s Western Partnerships During Troubled Times,” Atlantic Council Vice President and Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone congratulated the Middle East Institute for setting a healthy and helpful environment where an Armenian American can ask such a question about the Armenian Genocide and receive an honest response.