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080724|TDN|Head of Turkish Historical Society dismissed
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Thursday, July 24, 2008 Turkish Daily News | Ankara | Fulya Özerkan

The head of the Turkish Historical Society professor Yusuf Halaçoğlu was officially dismissed from office yesterday.

"I got the news while on holiday," he told the Turkish Daily News in a telephone interview. "It is not a big deal to be president of the Turkish Historical Society; I am a historian."

The dismissal of Halaçoğlu, known to be a hardliner on the Armenian question, comes at a time when diplomatic negotiations are underway between Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations. Halaçoğlu, however, said he did not believe his removal from office was linked to recent developments.

No official announcement has been made yet on Halaçoğlu's successor, while Halaçoğlu will continue to work as a professor at Ankara's Gazi University. News reports yesterday suggested professor Ali Birinci will replace him. Contacted by the TDN, Birinci said he has not been officially informed of such a decision.

Remarks made by Halaçoğlu from time to time in the past had escalated tension. "Kurds who live in Turkey are originally descendents of Turkmens, and Kurdish Alevis are originally Armenian," Halaçoğlu said once, irking Alevi institutions and pro-Kurdish politicians who then demanded his resignation and accused him of racism.
© 2008 Dogan Daily News Inc. www.turkishdailynews.com.tr
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Thursday, July 24, 2008 Turkish Daily News | Ankara | Fulya Özerkan

Controversial historian dismissed from office

The head of the Turkish Historical Society was dismissed from his post yesterday, a development whose timing coincides with the government's steps toward a rapprochement with Armenia.

"I don't know why … I got the news while on holiday," Professor Yusuf Halaçoğlu told the Turkish Daily News in a telephone interview. "It is not a big deal to be president of the Turkish Historical Society; I am a historian."

The dismissal of Halaçoğlu, known to be a hardliner on the Armenian question, came at a time when diplomatic negotiations are underway to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia, which currently have no diplomatic ties.

Halaçoğlu said, however, that he did not believe his removal from office was linked to the recent developments. "I don't think so. I'm not averse to dialogue (with Armenia). Indeed, Dashnaks were going to meet with me in September. I'm not a person who is averse to dialogue with anybody," he said.

Halaçoğlu's occasional statements on the Armenian question often escalated tension. "Kurds who live in Turkey are originally descendents of Turkmens, and Kurdish Alevis are originally Armenian," Halaçoğlu said once, irking Alevi institutions and pro-Kurdish politicians, who demanded his resignation and accusing him of racism.

No official announcement has been made yet of a successor for Halaçoğlu, who will continue to work as a professor at Ankara's Gazi University. News reporters suggested yesterday that Professor Ali Birinci would replace him. Contacted by the TDN, Birinci said he was not officially informed of such a decision.

"Dialogue must resolve differences"

Commenting on the present opening of the Turkish government towards Armenia through secret talks that were later confirmed by the foreign minister, Halaçoğlu said that, in his opinion as a historian, no problem can be resolved without dialogue.

Halaçoğlu described Armenia as a landlocked country suffering from socio-economic problems, which needs Turkey to open up to the world.

"Armenia cannot go out without Turkey. Turkey is a big country where close to 70,000 illegal immigrants from Armenia are working to earn their living. Armenia cannot survive in the Caucasus by excluding Turkey," he added.

Asked why the talks between the two sides were secret, Halaçoğlu said Armenia could not conduct talks publicly because of pressure from the Armenian diaspora and hardliners inside the country.

He said a football game between the two countries' national teams set for September could be a good beginning for further reconciliation. Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan has invited his Turkish counterpart to visit Yerevan for the football match in September, marking a shift in relations between the two states.

"Maybe this will be an opportunity for a meeting for the two countries' presidents to resolve their differences. This is a political game. Actually, the Turkish-Armenian issue is not scientific; it is a politicized matter," he added.

© 2008 Dogan Daily News Inc. www.turkishdailynews.com.tr

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