Turkish President Planned to Return Some Lands to Armenians in Van

Armen Hareyan's picture

In 1984 former Turkish president Turgut Ozal wanted to know the economic and political price Turkey would have to pay if Turkey accepted and recognized the Armenian Genocide and had planned to return some lands to Armenians in Van.

With the approach of April 24, the day when 10 million Armenians and more than 20 government around the world commemorate the Armenian Genocide, one of the most prominent topics in Turkish media is how to solve the Armenian Issue. The country still denies that the killing and deportations of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1921 was an act of Genocide. Yet, based on the archives and available documents it's becoming even more difficult and costly to continue to deny the charge. One of the top stories today in Turkish media is that one of the former presidents of the Turkish Republic Turgut Ozal considered a real attempt to solve the Armenian genocide to stop the mounting political and economic cost.

Today's Zaman reports among other Turkish newspapers that behind closed doors, president Ozal defended the idea of holding negotiations with Armenians to settle a dispute that has had great potential to deal a serious blow to Turkish interests in international politics. Ozal's close friends and former aids spoke to the newspaper about the politics of the day. In 1980s Armenia was still part of the Soviet Union and Ozal defended the idea of holding negotiations with the powerful Armenian diaspora.

His close friends and advisers say, (in the same place) that if Ozal were alive today, the problem of the Armenian Genocide might have already been solved.

Turgut Ozal's 2 Plans

Ozal did not only speak, but being a far-sighted politician he made a move. In 1984 he ordered his government advisers to work on possible scenarios to identify the the political and economic cost that his country would have to pay if Turkey recognized the Armenian Genocide and accepted the term genocide for killing 1.5 million Armenians during the World War I.

According to the second scenario Ozal's circle sought to gauge the political cost of a Turkish acceptance of genocide within 20 to 30 years if Turkey is forced to accept it one day. He wanted to solve the issue between the Armenian and Turkish nations before it got too late. According to Vehbi Dinçerler, 71, a former education minister and a state minister in Ozal's Cabinet, Ozal aimed at making "few concessions after reaching a deal with the Armenians."

President Ozal wanted to make the solution as part of the Van project. "Suleyman Roman, who worked on several projects with Özal in the 1980s, said the former president had planned to return some lands to Armenians in Van." What "returning some lands to Armenains" means is not clear.

Ozal could not make concrete progress in the project because of strong opposition. The main opposition came from the military establishment. The military, according to Hasan Celal Güzel, who served in Ozal's government, thought Ozal is making too many concessions to the Armenians and Kurds. Turgut Ozal was of partial Kurdish descent, according to The Washing Institute on Near East Policy.

“They [the military] saw Özal as someone who makes too many concessions. They stood against his policies. However, Özal came up with the idea that Turkey could reconcile and make peace with the Armenians, who had earned the title ‘millet-i sadıka' [loyal nation] during the Ottoman era. He wanted to open the door for a return of Armenians to Turkey. No one has made a move since. Had he not died, he might have solved this issue,” Güzel told Today's Zaman.

Image source of Turgut Ozal: Wikipedia

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