samedi 28 février 2009

Ria Oomen-Ruijten, EU Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey: I am receiving threats from the Armenians

Turkey rapporteur: I am receiving threats from the Armenians

The European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, has said Armenian lobbyists have threatened to destroy her career because she has refused to refer to the World War I-era killings of Anatolian Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as "genocide."

The Dutch Christian Democrat, whose report on Turkey was approved with a record 65 votes against only four votes in opposition and one abstention in the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Feb. 12, said the Armenians have told her that they will do their best to prevent her re-election to the European Parliament.

Oomen-Ruijten, one of the most senior members of the European Parliament, has been hailed for her balanced reports on Turkey in recent years. Despite enormous pressure from the Armenian lobby, Oomen-Ruijten has so far refused to refer to the 1915 events as "genocide."
Her predecessor as the rapporteur on Turkey, Camiel Eurlings, who was also a Dutch Christian Democrat, was heavily criticized for being too pro-Armenian and for authoring biased reports on Turkey. Oomen-Ruijten, who is expected to run for a European Parliament seat again in June, will defend her report in a plenary session on March 11. The report is expected to win the approval of the European Parliament without any major changes.

Speaking Thursday night on "European Desk," a news program on the STVHaber news channel, Oomen-Ruijten agreed that the Armenian lobby did not like her much and revealed that the lobby has made it clear that they will work hard to remove her from the European Parliament.
When asked to comment if these warnings should be seen as threats, Oomen-Ruijten replied: "Absolutely. Ask my office what sort of threats I have already received." Vowing that she would work hard to keep her report as it was, she said: "But I will never step away. If I am convinced that the document is good for both Turks and Armenians, then I will keep the report as it is."

Elaborating on what sort of threats she was receiving, she said, "They vowed that in the next European elections they would do everything in their power to remove me from the European Parliament."
Stressing that she very much appreciated Turkish President Abdullah Gül's visit to Armenia last fall, the first by a president in Turkish history, and also Foreign Minister Ali Babacan's efforts for reconciliation with Yerevan, Oomen-Ruijten added that the Turkish-Armenian border should be opened, but that the Armenians living in Europe and the US are not very interested in the opening of the border.

Joost Lagendijk, co-chairman of the Turkey-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee, was also on the program. He said he does not receive threats from the Armenians any more because he is considered a "lost cause." He said he supported the stance taken by Oomen-Ruijten on the 1915 events. "Looking back on eight years of how the issue has been handled, I am so happy that we are now out of the trap that we had put ourselves in. The debate was done around whether someone would call it genocide or not. It was such a sterile discussion that did not mean much in terms of present-day relations between Turkey and Armenia," Lagendijk said.

Ergenekon: cleansing of dirty history

While stressing that she did not want to get involved in an ongoing court-case, Oomen-Ruijten said it was absolutely necessary for Turkish society to clear up the question of Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network charged with attempting to overthrow the government. By strengthening the language of her report's paragraph on Ergenekon this year, she said, she wanted to put pressure on the investigation itself, but also to draw attention to the rights of the defendants.

Lagendijk acknowledged that he was very happy with the latest version of the paragraph on Ergenekon and said: "Ergenekon is the cleansing of Turkey's dirty past, but please play it by the rules and the book. If you don't, it will turn against you and all the attention will go to the procedures."

In this year's report the paragraph on Ergenekon calls on Turkish authorities to take the Ergenekon case more seriously, particularly on the issue of extrajudicial killings and the murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink.

'Baykal should behave in Ankara as he talks in Brussels'

Oomen-Ruijten criticized Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal for getting involved in the Ergenekon case and revealed that she had warned the CHP to be careful with regard to the investigation. "In my private meetings with CHP members, I tell them to be careful with the Ergenekon court case and not to get involved with it. I am coming from another sort of democracy. In my country politicians would never ever get involved in a judicial process," she said.

Lagendijk said Baykal's recent visit to Brussels was very good news, but stressed that the "nice words" of Baykal in Brussels should be followed up with "voting" in Ankara. "I hope the nice words of Mr. Baykal saying they are the only pro-EU party in the country will be proven true during voting in the Turkish Parliament. Because I still remember, unfortunately, that it was his party that voted against a few reforms that were requested by Brussels, such as the revision of Article 301 [of the Turkish Penal Code] and the Law on Foundations. I wish I could believe him. I hope I can believe him. The proof of the pudding is in the eating; in the CHP case it is in their voting. Their willingness to sit with the government to try and find a solution for those big parts of the Constitution that should be revised or changed completely should be put into action."

28 February 2009, Saturday

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