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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07YEREVAN344 2007-03-22 08:16:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

FM OSKANIAN SKEPTICAL OF TURKISH INTENTIONS WITH

Tags:   PREL PHUM TU AM 
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P 220816Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 000344 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/21/2017
TAGS: PREL PHUM TU AM
SUBJECT: FM OSKANIAN SKEPTICAL OF TURKISH INTENTIONS WITH
AKTAMAR CHURCH OPENING, OTHER INVITATIONS

Classified By: CDA A.F. Godfrey, reasons 1.4 (b,d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: FM Oskanian told us March 21 that a deputy
culture minister would lead the GOAM's delegation to the
Aktamar church opening March 29. He said the Catholicos
would also send representatives of the Armenian church from
Echmiadzin, as perhaps would the Armenian Patriarch in
Istanbul. He was disappointed that Turkey had not been
willing to open the land border to admit the delegation to
the event, as both a practical help and a political gesture
of goodwill. Oskananian said there was considerable
political pressure on the GOAM not to send anyone to the
ceremony, which was widely seen by Armenians as a cheap
Turkish publicity stunt, designed to subvert world attention
from the "genocide" issue. Oskanian editorialized at some
length that he personally, and President Kocharian even more
so, were "more and more convinced" that Turkey wanted nothing
more than endless, empty process with Armenia. "If we were
even ten percent convinced that this process will lead
anywhere, we would do ten times more" to make it successful.
END SUMMARY



2. (C) THE AKTAMAR CHURCH EVENT: FM Oskanian affirmed that
the GOAM will accept Turkey's invitation to send a delegation
to the reopening ceremony of the Armenian church on Aktamar
Island in Lake Van, but that this would be led by deputy
minister rather than the minister of culture herself. This
was a political compromise, threading a middle course between
demands (especially from the Armenian diaspora, but echoed in
local sentiment) to boycott the ceremony altogether, and the
need not to spurn a Turkish invitation altogether. Oskanian
commented that the politics were complicated further by the
ongoing dispute between the Armenian Patriarch in Istanbul
and the GOT over whether Turkish authorities would permit a
cross to be mounted atop the renovated church and whether the
Patriarch's clergy would be permitted to conduct worship
services there at least once or twice a year. Oskanian said
it was not yet clear whether the Armenian Patriach would be
represented at the ceremony, and the GOAM was reluctant to
allow daylight between its position and that of the worldwide
Armenian church. The foreign minister cited a recent
California Courier editorial (a leading voice of the Los
Angelos-based diaspora community) denouncing the Aktamar
church reopening as "Turkish propaganda."



3. (C) THE POLITICS OF LOGISTICS: Oskanian expressed
disappointment that Turkish officials had not chosen to open
the border to allow the GOAM/Armenian Church delegation to
drive to Lake Van. This would have been a valuable political
symbol. It also would have been a great logistical help,
transforming a 14-hour trek the long way around into a
direct, four-hour drive. Alternatively, the delegation may
have to fly to Istanbul from Yerevan, and then get onward
transportation back east to Lake Van, which was also
cumbersome. This was a missed opportunity on Turkey's part
to show some goodwill.



4. (C) OTHER INVITATIONS: The CDA raised several
additional Turkish invitations to GOAM officials (reported to
us by Ankara e-mails), including the BSEC summit in late
June, a Turkish chamber of commerce/BSEC event for trade
ministers, and the reported recent invitation to an early
April conference from Bilkent University in Ankara to
Armenian Minister of Finance and Economy. Oskanian reported
that he himself would likely represent President Kocharian at
the BSEC summit. It was not yet clear who would attend the
trade event or an education-related event to which Armenia
had also been invited, because the events will occur so soon
after the Armenia's May election that those cabinet seats may
not be filled yet. (NOTE: We were told separately by Deputy
Finance Minister Avetissian that the finance minister had
never received anything in writing from Bilkent University.
END NOTE)



5. (C) EMPTY PROCESS: Oskanian commented that he and his
government were "more and more convinced" that Turkey had no
intention of letting this process of apparent rapprochement
lead to anything substantive. He added, "the president is
even more pessimistic than I am." Armenian leaders are
convinced that Turkey's strategy is to placate Western
leaders by creating the appearance of an active dialogue with
Armenia, while never conceding anything that adds any value
for Armenia. Oskanian said that if he believed there was
even a ten percent chance that this dialogue with Turkey was
leading anywhere, he would multiply his government's efforts
ten times to get to a result. He does not even demand
immediate results; If he were convinced that dialogue now
would lead toward a border opening in 2008 or 2009, that
would be fine. However, he simply did not believe that the
GOT was serious in its negotations.


YEREVAN 00000344 002 OF 002




6. (C) BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Oskanian commented that
Armenia has numerous times before acceded to American wishes
and engaged in bilateral dialogue with Turkey, each time
letting Turkey get past an immediate problem in exchange for
promises that progress would come down the road for Armenia,
and every time the GOAM had ultimately been left
empty-handed. He related that in 1998, Armenia had withheld
consensus for Turkey to host the 1999 OSCE Summit.
Then-Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott had personally
pleaded with Oskanian to lift the Armenian veto of the
Istanbul site. Talbott had said "I promise you that in a
very short time you'll be able to drive through that border.
I'm looking you in the eyes and making that committment."
Armenia did relent, and lift its opposition to Turkey hosting
the 1999 Istanbul Summit, and yet no one insisted that Turkey
fulfill Talbott's commitment to get the border opened. More
recently, Oskanian added, DFM Kirakossian's attendance at the
funeral in Istanbul of Hrant Dink earlier this year was cited
by the U.S. Administration in a letter from Secretaries Rice
and Gates to Congress as evidence of an ongoing process of
reconcilliation. But Kirakossian attended not at the
invitation of the Government of Turkey, but in response to
urging from the USG. Skepticism in Yerevan, accordingly,
runs deep, that the promises Turkey makes when on the horns
of an immediate political problem, will reach fruition.
GODFREY