Aghjayan: In Pursuit Of Justice And True Friendship

By George Aghjayan

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September 20, 2009

On Sat., Sept. 19, a demonstration against the Turkey-Armenia protocols
was held in front of the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United
Nations in New York. The demonstration, organized by the Armenian Youth
Federation (AYF), brought together close to 800 protesters. Among the
speakers at the demonstration were ARF Eastern USA Central Committee
member George Aghjayan. The article below is based on his speech.

For over 90 years, we have been waging a war for justice.

Justice for the over one and a half million Armenians murdered at
the orders of the Ottoman Turkish government.

Justice for the thousands of Armenian cultural monuments destroyed
by the governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan and continuing to this
very day.

Justice for the hundreds of thousands of survivors whose lives were
never the same after the horrors they witnessed and endured.

Justice so that future generations of Armenians can grow up without
fear of persecution and Armenia can truly be free, independent,
and united.

Today, we have entered the final battle of that war. This battle
will not end today, but it surely has already begun. The Turkish
government understands this well. As with any war, the final stage
is marked with extreme aggression and tactics born of desperation.

This is not the time for us to blink and most definitely is not the
time to capitulate on our demands. Tragically, the protocols agreed
to for the development of diplomatic relations between Turkey and
Armenia do just that.

The protocol commits to "territorial integrity and inviolability of
frontiers." The right of self-determination is not mentioned. The
people of Artsakh fought long and sacrificed much to guarantee their
rights and security. We have an obligation to ensure those sacrifices
were not in vain.

The very law Azerbaijan used to secede from the Soviet Union allowed
for autonomous regions within seceding republics to choose their own
path. Artsakh chose independence from Azerbaijan. The territory of an
independent Azerbaijan has never, nor should it ever, include Artsakh.

The protocols call for the creation of an historical commission to
"define existing problems." The existing problem is the Armenian
Genocide and it is a crime requiring justice not an historical
commission with the sole aim of questioning the indisputable facts.

The protocol commits to "refrain from pursuing any policy incompatible
with the spirit of good neighborly relations." Turkey will use this
provision to stifle all efforts at international recognition of the
Armenian Genocide by the diaspora.

For years, Turkey has portrayed resolutions recognizing the Armenian
Genocide as racist and detrimental to efforts at rapprochement between
Turks and Armenians. In addition, today the United States legal system
is being used by Turkish advocates to further limit any discussion
of the genocide.

It is Turkey’s decades of denial that constitute unfriendly
relations. As esteemed scholar Israel Charny notes, "Denials of
genocide make no sense unless one sees in them renewed opportunities
for the same passions, meanings, and pleasures that were at work in
the genocide itself, now revived in symbolic processes of murdering the
dignity of the survivors, rationality, truth, and even history itself."

To argue the facts is to misinterpret the true motives of denial and
supply a victory for the deniers. Lasting peace in the region cannot
be based on the humiliation of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide
and their descendents.

The protocol confirms "the existing border between the two countries
as defined by the relevant treaties." This is a clear reference to
the Treaty of Kars and the Treaty of Lausanne. The former signed
under duress and the latter Armenia was not a party to.

As former Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian noted, Turkey
is currently noncompliant with the Kars Treaty. Thus, through the
ratification of this agreement and initiation of diplomatic relations,
Armenia would make the Treaty of Kars ironclad and be relinquishing
any rights to western Armenia granted through the Treaty of Sevres.

Some have claimed that the current border is a fait accompli, that
borders between nations only change as a result of war. However, in
1932 Turkey acquired a border with Nakhichevan from land exchanged with
Iran. In 1939, Turkey acquired a portion of the Haleb province. Neither
were the result of war.

The protocol emphasizes the decision to open the common border between
Turkey and Armenia. This implies that the border was closed by mutual
agreement. In fact, since 1993, Turkey has unilaterally enforced an
illegal blockade of Armenia. Turkish officials have stated clearly
that the objective of closing the border was to create such economic
hardship so as to result in the large-scale emigration of Armenians
and thus to serve as a continuation of the genocidal process.

The Armenian Genocide was meant to end any possibility of an
independent Armenia. The current economic and political difficulties
for Armenia are a direct consequence of the genocide. It is thus
logical that any just resolution to the genocide would require
ensuring the sustainability of Armenia-economically, culturally,
and demographically. A truly remorseful Turkey would accept that the
current borders of Armenia are morally unacceptable.

Our opponents would like to portray us as extremists, as lacking
pragmatism. However, the lessons of history have shown that lasting
peace and prosperity can only be accomplished through mutual respect,
trust, and cooperation-none of which can be achieved through deception
and lies. This is the case whether we are discussing relationships
at a personal level or between countries.

As I have said previously, the protocols are a disaster for Armenian
foreign policy and are meant to relegate Armenia to the dustbin of
history. We demand a different path, one that will lead to true
friendship between Turks and Armenians and peace between Turkey
and Armenia.