Armenian President’s Interview With Turkish Hurriyet Daily


11:07, 24 Apr 2015
Siranush Ghazanchyan

On the morning of April 24, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet has
published an extensive interview with Armenian President Serzh

– As a politician who has invested great efforts into the process
of reconciliation between your country and Turkey, what scenario you
would dream of having on April 24 Remembrance Day this year?

I believe one such option would be giving tribute to the innocent
victims of the Armenian Genocide jointly with the Turkish President
on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd, and proclaiming from the Memorial to
the whole world that we join our efforts in condemning the crimes
of genocide of the past thus preventing the possible recurrence of
genocide and other crimes against humanity.

This was exactly our aim when we sent an invitation to the President
of Turkey to participate in the commemoration events on April 24.

Unfortunately, this became another missed opportunity for Turkey.

– If the protocols were implemented, would Armenia still continue its
aggressive campaign calling upon states and international organizations
to recognize the Armenian Genocide?

First of all, the characterization of being ‘aggressive’ is misplaced.

The steps we have taken should not be misconstrued as an attack,
and are not against the Turkish people. And, secondly, I would rather
avoid any hypothetical questions.

That was a process, which had not reached its logical conclusion.

Should it have been crowned with success, perhaps, we would have found
ourselves in another reality: it is possible that eventually Turkey
itself could have acknowledged the Armenian Genocide, and with that
we would enter a new phase of a genuine reconciliation between our
nations. Today we have what we have.

The present tendencies of recognition and condemnation of the Armenian
Genocide by various states and organizations demonstrate in practice
the international community’s awareness that impunity for the crimes
against humanity is inadmissible, and we shall join efforts to devise
effective mechanisms for the prevention thereof.

The continuous process of the Armenian Genocide recognition by the
international community should be a serious signal to the Turkish
authorities that the denials stance of Turkey on this issue does not
in any way or shape fit the values and realities of the XXI century.

– What have you gained from the latest statement by Pope Francis? Did
you anticipate it? What possible consequences do you think it may

World leaders are vested with a unique mission to prevent crimes
against humanity. In this context, the Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica
served by Pope Francis on April 12 to commemorate the Armenian Genocide
Centennial, who followed the lead of Pope John Paul II in defining
the well-known events as genocide, was a clear demonstration to that
effect. The Pope’s statement was a message of humanism, tolerance,
struggle against xenophobia, and crimes against humanity addressed
to the entire humankind. I hope it will become a landmark to guide
especially those countries that subordinate universal values to their
political interests.

The emotional and non-diplomatic reaction of the Turkish leadership
was yet another proof that Turkey continued its policy of evident
denial pursued at a state level, thus taking upon it the burden of the
responsibility for the crime perpetrated by the authorities of the
Ottoman Empire. If Turkey does not share this view, if it disagrees
with numerous countries and international organizations that have
recognized the Armenian Genocide, that is Turkey’s problem, and not
the one of the international community.

– What are your expectations from the U.S. President Obama on April
24 this year? If the United States decides to take into account its
strategic interests in the region, and not to initiate any steps that
might infuriate Turkey, what would be your reaction?

Every country pursues its strategic interests, but there are universal
interests and universal priorities. One of them is to build a secure
and peaceful world, which is possible through straightening out
disputes we presently that exist today. And that means that one
needs to face its own past, learn lessons from it by taking the
necessary steps.

The 28th President of the United States Woodrow Wilson 95 years ago
actually formulated the need for the international recognition of
the Armenian Genocide, since the prevention of the crimes of genocide
and all other future sufferings starts with the acknowledgement.

As a mighty power and champion of democratic values the United States
has on numerous occasions stated its position regarding the Armenian
Genocide. Out of 51 U.S. constituent states 44 recognized and condemned
the Armenian Genocide. Throughout history various American Presidents,
such as Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, described the atrocities against
the Armenian people as genocide. Even those U.S.

Presidents that had not used the word “genocide” during their tenure
had used that term while campaigning. It means that they never
questioned the veracity of what had happened, and only due to certain
political considerations refrained from uttering the word “genocide”.

We strongly believe that universal values will eventually prevail
over ephemeral political interests.

– In spite of the European Parliament recognition of the Armenian
claims in 1987, and a similar resolution adopted on April 15 this
year, I have met numerous European liberals in past years that
happened to support the Turkish views that history is better left
to historians. There was also a reference to that effect in the
Armenian-Turkish protocols too, aiming at the establishment of a
special commission. Despite this we have noticed the position of the
Armenian authorities that history is not a matter of discussion. This
is a kind of controversial stance, isn’t it?

I do not know which representatives of the European Parliament you
have met but the resolution of April 15, 2015, was adopted by a sheer
majority in the European Parliament that represents 28 European states,
and around half a billion people. That in itself is already a very
vocal fact that testifies the clear cut position of the European
family with regard to the Armenian Genocide.

By adopting that document, the European legislative body paid tribute
to the memory of 1.5mln victims of the Armenian Genocide, and once
again underscored its commitment to the protection of human rights
and universal values.

On the notion of leaving history to historians: the veracity of
the Armenian Genocide has been studied by various scholars, social
and political figures, international law experts, the International
Association of Genocide Scholars, lawmakers, and also a number of
Turkish historians for about a century now. The unanimous view of all
of them was that what happened to the Armenian people in the Ottoman
Empire definitely constituted genocide. Under the light of this,
it becomes obvious that the Turkish proposal of establishing the
so-called commission of historians has only one goal, which is to
delay the process of the Armenian Genocide recognition, and divert
the attention of international community from that crime. That is
not only our view but also the view of the international community
that goes on recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide.

The protocols contain no clause of establishing any commission
on historical studies. The respective paragraph in the protocol
envisages a dialogue aimed at restoring mutual confidence between
the two nations, which entailed the establishment of a sub-commission.

Throughout the negotiations the Armenian side has stressed on numerous
occasions at various levels also to the Turkish side that the veracity
of the Genocide cannot be questioned under any circumstances.

– On February 16 you recalled the protocols from your Parliament. On
the other hand, the protocols are still in the Turkish Parliament
waiting for a politically expedient time for ratification. Isn’t this
move by Armenia perceived as a step back from the reconciliation
efforts on your side? Does this mean the 2009 process has failed

I will ask a rhetorical question: when the expedient time will
arrive according to the Turkish standards? It has already been
the sixth year since the protocols have been signed: when is the
expedient time? On the part of Turkey this signifies lack of any
basic respect not only towards the side that the protocols have been
concluded with but also towards its international obligations. The
years behind have demonstrated that Turkey is looking forward not
to some convenient moment, but instead is trying to prevent the
manifestation of unambiguous position of the international community
on the Armenian Genocide by imitating a process of the Armenian-Turkish
rapprochement, claiming that recognitions were something that hindered
the reconciliation.

The process of the Armenian-Turkish reconciliation was launched upon my
initiative, and pursued a very simple goal – to establish diplomatic
relations without any preconditions, and unseal the last closed
border in Europe, safeguarding peaceful and neighborly coexistence
of our nations.

Unfortunately, the lack of political will on the part of the
Turkish authorities, distortion of the letter and spirit of the
protocols, fresh manifestations of denial, and continuously brought
up preconditions intended to feed groundless demands of Azerbaijan
thwarted the implementation of the protocols. Everyone is well-aware
that it was Armenia that could have brought up some preconditions
in the first place, but we have not resorted to it yet since we are
guided by our vision of establishing an environment of cooperation
in the region.

After six years of unfulfilled expectations I have decided to recall
the protocols from the parliament. On one occasion I said that
the Armenians are not going to wait indefinitely for the Turkish
authorities to be able to find a convenient moment to finally ratify
those protocols.

It was not Armenia that closed the Armenian-Turkish border, and it is
not Armenia shutting the doors to the reconciliation. Unfortunately,
the window of opportunity to arrive at historic reconciliation between
our nations was missed because of the unconstructive Turkish policies.

We, however, are ready to embark upon a constructive dialogue with
Turkey in case it faces its own history, heeds to the calls of the
international community, and guided itself by the vision of creating
a peaceful future for the Armenian and Turkish peoples.

– Does the Republic of Armenia have any territorial claims from Turkey?

The Republic of Armenia has never declared any territorial claims
either to Turkey, or to any other country since our independence.

There has never been such an issue on the foreign policy agenda of our
country, and there is none today. That is a clear cut position. We are
a fully-fledged and responsible member of the international community.

As a member to the United Nations we recognize our role in the
international affairs, we respect the principles of international
law, and the same, incidentally, we anticipate from our neighbor to
the West. The one that illegally keeps the border with our country
shut, turning it into the last closed border in Europe, and brings up
unacceptable preconditions for the establishment of the diplomatic
relations with Armenia in disrespect towards the international
community that mediated the Zurich Protocols. The Zurich Protocols,
I remind you, which bears Turkey’s own signature underneath.

And, finally, I would like to register: you might have noticed that the
talk of Armenia’s territorial claims towards Turkey or any intentions
of our to that effect is mainly carried in Turkey, not in Armenia. I
will stop here to let each of us draw his own conclusions as why it
is so.

– Why Armenia considered offensive the Turkish invitation to
participate in the ceremonies dedicated to the Battle of Canakkale
on April 24? The Turkish officials were saying that for the past 20
years they had been marking that event, and the present year has been
significant because of the hundredth anniversary of the Canakkale
battle. It seems around 30 heads of states are going to participate
in that ceremony. Is Armenia concerned about that?

The events scheduled for the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide
Centennial are not a matter of competition for us. If the Turkish
authorities are in pursuit of securing more state leaders in attendance
at any cost in order to overshadow the Armenian Genocide Centennial
events, we have got much more serious and forward-looking goals, that
is to establish a vigorous platform together with the international
community in struggling against the past and future crimes against

In contrast to Turkey, we neither force, nor threaten, and nor
blackmail the international community to partake in our commemoration
events. The representatives of states and international organizations
are coming to Armenia guided not by political or economic gains,
but principles, universal values and moral imperatives.

As you have indicated, it has been for only 20 years that Turkey holds
those ceremonies. But let us also register that in the course of those
20 years it has never been held on April 24. This is the first year
that the celebration is planned on the very same day of April 24,
when the Armenian people for a hundred years has been firmly getting
together to commemorate the innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Regardless of what name do the Turkish authorities ascribe to the
Armenian Genocide, such an indelicate move manifested disrespectful
attitude towards their own citizens – the memory of 1.5 million
murdered Armenians. Meanwhile, had Turkey a slightest willingness to
normalize our relations, figuratively speaking, “it should not have
organized a feast and celebration on the day when the neighbor is
mourning at home.”

– Don’t you think that opening the border will change the existing
difficulties in the relations?

Opening the border will change many things. First of all, it will
create a certain atmosphere of trust, lay foundation of establishing
beneficial business ties, and make a considerable contribution to
the economic development of the Eastern provinces of Turkey. Opening
the border will also make contacts between our civil societies more
active, making them more informed about each other’s approaches and
perceptions, which, I believe, will also have a positive impact on
the two nations’ rapprochement.

– Now, as April 24 passes, what will be the strategy of the Armenian
state in the upcoming years? Will there be a place for renewed efforts
to start a new process of rapprochement? Do you personally have the
political will to change this process of stalemate, which does not
make it possible for the two states to live as neighbors?

We have stated many times that our struggle does not end in 2015 – it
will just enter a more mature phase. Let us not forget that we have had
an opportunity to raise the issue of the Armenian Genocide, and condemn
it only after the declaration of independence of the third Republic
of Armenia. And that means that our struggle has just started. And
it will be more coordinated and purposeful in the upcoming years.

The bridges of rapprochement are not burned yet and we even initiated
rapprochement ourselves. However, it is impossible to open the
door whose key we don’t have. And even now, when we commemorate the
centennial of our innocent victims, I declare that we are ready for
the normalization of relations with Turkey, for starting a process
of rapprochement between the Armenian and Turkish nations without
any preconditions.

– Prime Minister Davutoglu of the Republic of Turkey made a statement
on April 19, which was unexpected for us. He said, “I express my
condolences to the grandchildren of Ottoman Armenians who lost their
lives during WWI.” There were also expressions like sharing the pain,
true memory, honestly confronting the past in the statement. Another
surprise is that on April 24, a liturgy will be served in the Armenian
Patriarchate. How do you assess the content of this message?

It is interesting that this message was published on April 19. If it
had been made public on April 24, i.e., on the day of the centennial
of the Genocide or a day before that, I would have considered it
as an ordinary statement whose denialist content we know from the
previous statements. However, since it was made public so early, in
our opinion, it is an attempt to resist or affect the larger process
related to the recognition of the Genocide that is under way around
the world. It is understandable why it was made public on April 19.

And I think it was inappropriate to distort, manipulate or respond
to His Holiness Pope Francis’s words.

I don’t want to talk about the content of that spurious statement –
I expect that on April 24, Mr. Erdogan, the President of Turkey, will
prove to be more robust and rational and will make a real statement,
in which he will say what happened, which will make it possible for
us to start a process of rapprochement between our two nations. To be
more accurate, perhaps, one needs to say – not between the nations,
but between ourselves and the Turkish government because I don’t
blame the Turkish people, the Turks for anything whatsoever.

– If you are ready to share your feelings toward the Turkish people,
I would like to ask the following question. During the same war, what
does the pain suffered by the Turkish and Muslim societies signify
to you? Does Armenia admit the pain, sufferings, and deportations of
Turks during the same period?

The Armenian people cannot but understand that suffering because the
Armenian people have suffered many defeats and won many victories
during their three-millennia-long history. There have been both
sufferings and joys; therefore, the Armenian people can understand
very well what any people, including the Turkish people, can undergo
during war. However, it is one thing to suffer and another thing to
undergo genocide. If the Turkish people also went through genocide
during the Ottoman rule, let the current government of Turkey recognize
the genocide of both Armenians and Turks, which was committed by the
Ottoman government.

It is one thing when residents of one, two, or three villages move to
another place, or individual citizens change their places of residence,
which we pity, but when a whole people is eliminated, it is quite
another thing. I suggest that you pay attention to two facts: first,
the statements of the Young Turks’ leaders about their intentions
to eliminate Armenians. Secondly, there are interviews with Raphael
Lemkin, during which he was asked, “What does genocide mean?”

He answered, “Genocide is what happened to Armenians and Jews.” What
can one add to this?

I hope that some years on from now, there will be so many people in
Turkey who realize what happened, that it will be impossible to make
statements like the one the Prime Minister made (on April 19).