Though confidence-building and dialogue processes are highly sensitive, they should aim to change attitudes in the long term. The work that EPF and other actors have done so far, including the activities of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Committee (TARC) in earlier years, has demonstrated that it is possible to change the attitudes of large groups of people. Involving a broad cross-section of civil society, business, and government representatives the program will further emphasize efforts to shape public opinion.
EPF in Armenia is implementing ‘Armenia-Turkey Rapprochement’ project under direct funding from USAID Armenia. The term of the project is from January 15 through October 15, 2010. The project consists of four components: Policy Dialogue – Armenian-Turkish Protocols, Media Dialogue – Armenia-Turkey Unbiased Media Coverage, Business Dialogue – Cross-border Tourism, and Open Dialogue.
The meeting brought together a number of distinguished opinion makers and media professionals from Turkey and Armenia. The list of participants included Mr. Alexander Arzumanyan, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia; Ambassador Yalim Eralp (Turkey); Ambassador David Hovhannisyan (Armenia); Mr. Mehmet Ali Birand, renowned Turkish journalist, political commentator and writer; and others. U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie L. Yovanovitch, EPF Director Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan, and GPoT Director Mensur Akgun welcomed the participants with opening remarks.
“The meeting today is part of a process to help lay a foundation for greater regional integration, something we believe to be very important that will lead to enhanced regional stability and enhanced economic cooperation and development in the two countries,”_ said Ambassador Yovanovitch. She noted that experiences in other countries show that civil society actors, individually, but more often, collectively, have come to play a new and important role in conflict resolution around the world. “Any activity, whether at the elite, middle-range, or grassroots level, aimed at transforming the cross-border relationship, contributes to progress and to an atmosphere more conducive to conflict resolution, and we hope that this initiative will bring us one step closer to improved dialogue and cooperation between Armenia and Turkey,” she said.
A talk show featuring participants from the above joint meeting aired on Yerkir Media TV in Armenia on March 2010.
A talk show by a prominent Turkish TV journalist Mehmet Ali Birand discussing Armenian youth’s perspective on Arm-Turk relations was aired on Canal D and CNNTurk in Turkey; and on Yerkir Media TV in Armenia.
Petros Ghazaryan interviews Osman Kavala from Anadolu Kultur
On July 8, 2010, GPoT hosted a conference titled ‘Turkey-Armenia Policy Discussions’ at Istanbul Kültür University with participation of Turkish and international journalists, diplomats and opinion-makers. David Hovhannisyan, Ambassador (ret.) and Professor at Yerevan State University, and Joost Lagendijk, Senior Adviser with Istanbul Policy Center at Sabanci University, spoke at a round table moderated by Osman Kavala, Chairman of the Board of Anadolu Kultur. The group from Armenia then visited Doğan Media Center to meet with Mehmet Ali Birand, renowned Turkish journalist, political commentator and writer, and Ferhat Boratav, Advisor to CNNTürk, and made a tour of CNNTürk studios.
On the second day of the Project, the group was in Ankara to meet with several senior Turkish officials. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, the Director-General of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, hosted GPoT and EPF. Mr. Sinirlioğlu spoke on the current situation in Turkish-Armenian relations and explained the Ministry’s vision in carrying the relationship forward. The group then visited the Turkish Parliament to meet with Suat Kınıklıoğlu, MP (AKP), Deputy Director of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Spokesperson for Parliament’s Foreign Relations Commission, and Yaşar Yakış, MP (AKP), former Minister of Foreign Affairs and ambassador. Mr. Kınıklıoğlu and Mr. Yakış also briefed the group on the government’s activities and stance on Armenian-Turkish rapprochement and answered questions.
A manual which contains information and contacts on both Turkey and Armenia to introduce key people and institutions to journalists and NGOs from Armenia and Turkey that want to write about or advocate their issues in the other country. European Stability Initiative developed the manual in Armenian, Turkish and English languages. It could be downloaded from here or viewed by this link.
Training for 15 Armenian journalists on Turkey and for 15 Turkish journalists on Armenia to cover history, culture, current political structure, and other issues. Four to five media outlets and up to 20-25 journalists from each courty will be trained.
In partnership with the USAID-Arm, NCFA, CAPS, AED, as well as a number of local and Turkish tour operators and associations (e.g. TurSub in Turkey), EPF’s team developed a 5-day familiarization trip throughout Armenia for a group of 8-10 Turkish tour operators, and a 6-day familiarization trip throughout Eastern Turkey for a group of 8-10 Armenian tour operators. The trip to Turkey will happen in early August 2010, and the trip to Eastern Turkey – in early September 2010.
On June 28, 2010, EPF announced a call for proposals to produce video reports about Turkey and a series of interviews with political figures and opinion-makers in Turkey. The winning team has been already identified. Yerkir Media TV will produce four documentaries and broadcast them by the end of October.