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Armenian Terrorist Group Tries to Kill Turkish Envoy

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Armenian terrorist group ASALA on Friday claimed its first attack on a Turkish diplomat in six years, an act seen by Turkey as an attempt to torpedo this country’s warming relations with its old enemies in the former Soviet republic of Armenia.

A caller claiming to represent ASALA told the French news agency in Paris that it was responsible for Thursday’s attempted assassination of Turkey’s ambassador to Hungary, Bedrettin Tunabas, who escaped unhurt.

“We were turning the corner (in an automobile) when a . . . man sent a hail of bullets straight at us. He was two meters away. We were eyeball to eyeball,” Tunabas told Istanbul’s Hurriyet newspaper. “But the armored glass held firm.”

The caller in Paris said ASALA had targeted Tunabas for his “involvement with Turkish intelligence,” but the Turkish Foreign Ministry had a different interpretation.

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“It is very noteworthy that this attack occurred when Turkish-Armenian relations have entered a period of softening,” the ministry said in a statement.

ASALA killed 47 Turks, including 31 diplomats and officials, in 86 terrorist attacks between 1973 and 1985, the Foreign Ministry said. The group had links in the Armenian diaspora communities in France and pre-1982 Lebanon.

Isolated in the Caucasus, the present Armenian government has given strong signals that it is ready to drop territorial claims on neighboring eastern Turkey and references to Turkish genocide--charges that Ottoman Turkey massacred or deported 1.5 million Armenians during World War I.

Some Turkish officials say that up to 300,000 Armenian Christians died in what they say was a harsh civil war in which even more Turkish Muslims perished.

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“We now want bygones to be bygones, to start again in this new era. We are determined to treat everyone from the Soviet Union in the same way,” said Akin Gonen, a state minister and government spokesman.

About 60,000 Armenians remain among Turkey’s population of 57 million. Of about 6 1/2 million Armenians in the world, most live in former Soviet Armenia.

The Foreign Ministry vowed that “in this period of change in the world and in our region, terrorist actions can achieve nothing.”

But some right-wing Turks already disapprove of the opening toward Armenia, making the task harder for the Turks, who want to persuade the rich and influential Armenian diaspora in France and the United States to follow the moderate lead of the Yerevan government in Armenia.

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“I’m worried about the reactions,” said Izhak Alaton, a business-hungry Turkish contractor who last month became the first civilian in a generation to cross the land border to Armenia by car. “We have to find a way to keep away from this radicalism.”


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