VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
The signal remains strong for reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia as the Turkish state broadcaster’s head of radio reveals that there are serious plans to begin broadcasting in the Armenian-language within a year. ‘I sincerely am working for the common future of the two peoples,’ says a member of the Armenian broadcasting team
Just months since it began radio broadcasts in Armenian, state-owned Turkish Radio and Broadcasting Corporation, or TRT, is now preparing to launch an Armenian television channel.
According to a source, who declined to be named, initial efforts to broadcast in Armenian began after a meeting between President Abdullah Gül and his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sarkisian, last September when Gül visited Yerevan for a football match between the national teams of both countries. One team will prepare the television and radio broadcasts together.
TRT Radio Bureau and Foreign Broadcasts Director Şenol Göka confirmed that Armenian television broadcasts would begin within a year. Göka refused to provide any details on preparations, but did say the rate of work was accelerating.
In April, Ankara and Yerevan agreed on a "road map" deal for U.S.-backed talks leading the way to normalizing ties and opening the common border, which Turkey closed in a show of support of Azerbaijan in 1993 after the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Armenia accuses Turkey of failing to recognize the 1915-era killings of Armenians within Ottoman Empire as an act of genocide. Turkey says hundreds of thousands of both Turks and Armenians died at the time due to communal violence and wartime conditions, but rejects allegations of genocide.
"We are ready to normalize Armenian-Turkish relations without preconditions and are hopeful that Turkey too will take that path. As for Turkey's part, I can only express hope that Turkey will not retreat," Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in response to a question from an Armenian reporter at a joint-news conference with Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday in Yerevan.
The plan was to launch the radio channel in June but it was brought forward to April 2 so that broadcasting could begin before U.S. President Barack Obama’s state visit on April 5.
Göka said the decision to launch a radio channel in Armenian was made about 18 months ago.
Broadcasts in Armenian carry a message to Armenia and the world, said Göka. “We are tackling the common history of the two nations. We are emphasizing our joint values in order to strengthen the links between the two people.”
He said TRT was proud to be one of the most popular broadcasters in Armenia. “There has been no effort to tamper with the transmissions. This is encouraging. Especially for short-wave transmissions, such things happen. This shows we are not bothering anyone across the border,” he said.
However, he also criticized the head of the Armenian state broadcaster, Alex Haroutunian, saying: “He was in Turkey a few weeks ago and made a statement about how he did not know about TRT’s broadcasts in Armenian. To tell you the truth, I was very upset. The only thing I will say is that they knew about the broadcasts.”
The two corporations signed a deal last year to prepare joint programs.
When asked about the Armenian broadcasts in the Eastern Armenian dialect, which is used mainly in Armenia rather than the western dialect used by Turkish Armenians and the Armenian diaspora, Göka said: “In the beginning, when we decided to launch such a service, our target audience was Armenia, not Istanbul. We see these broadcasts as a key to developing good relations with Armenia.” Speakers of western and eastern Armenian dialects are virtually unintelligible to one another.
The TRT has been receiving plenty of applications from both Turks of Armenian decent and Armenian nationals in Turkey, said Göka, adding that recruitment was done under to supervision of local experts on the eastern Armenian dialect.
Göka also said he could not understand all the controversy surrounding TRT’s broadcasts in Armenian, noting that TRT radio broadcasted in 31 different languages.
The secret team:
The team in charge of the Armenian broadcasts has been kept away from the public’s eye.
Armenia-born Ernest Margarian is a member of that team. Margarian, who told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that he was making public his identity for the first time, said he had moved to Turkey in 2004 and decided to settle in Ankara.
When asked why he chose to hide his identity, he said: “I didn’t really have a reason. I am not really doing anything that will attract criticism. However, I just didn’t want to become a public person.”
He said he never felt like a foreigner in Turkey, noting that the only problem he faced was that of language. “However, after a while, I learned the language and that was over,” he said.
He said he was proud of the fact that his name would be noted in history books as the first Armenian national to broadcast from Turkey.
Any potential criticism from Armenia for what he is doing does not discourage him, he said. “Because I sincerely am working for the common future of the two peoples.”