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Pres. Kocharian Says Today’s Turkey Is Responsible...   11/05/2006

Pres. Kocharian Says Today’s Turkey Is Responsible for the Genocide

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

In the vain hope of splitting the Diaspora from Armenia, Turkish officials have been making self-delusional statements. They have repeatedly claimed that Diaspora Armenians are the ones pushing for demands from Turkey, while the people of Armenia supposedly just want to live in peace with their Turkish neighbors.

On April 24 of this year, high-ranking Armenian officials went out of their way to expose these Turkish distortions by taking a very tough stand vis--vis Turkey. In an official statement issued on the occasion of the 91st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Pres. Kocharian went far beyond anything he had said before on Turkish responsibility for the Armenian Genocide. For the first time, he blamed not only the Ottoman Empire for the Genocide, but also today’s Turkish Republic.

Pres. Kocharian stated: "Today we commemorate the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Ottoman Turkey and its legal successor bear full responsibility for this crime. In the years succeeding the Armenian Genocide, the survivors have borne the grave consequences of the committed crime. The pain is all the more intense, as we are forced to struggle for recognition as well as condemnation of that black page of history. The Republic of Armenia, as the articulator of the national interests of Armenians living in the homeland as well as those scattered throughout the world, will continue that struggle. We are grateful to all the countries, organizations and individuals who are supporting us."

The Prime Minister of Armenia, Antranik Margarian, in his April 24 statement, found it salutary that "the number of countries recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide is increasing with each passing year.… The efforts of today’s Turkey aiming to deny the Genocide, distort the evidence, cover up the facts, and silence the handful of Turkish intellectuals who are exposing and condemning the shameful pages of its history, are not only unhelpful in promoting a stable peace and good neighborly relations in the region, but in an atmosphere of impunity, make the perpetration of new crimes possible."

The Deputy Speaker of the Armenian Parliament, Tigran Torosian, said: "Recognition of the Genocide will dignify Turkey and the Turkish people. They can also not recognize it, but that won’t change anything in the world."

The Deputy Minister of Defense of Armenia, Artur Aghabekian, stated: "Turkey must understand that sooner or later the whole world, each and every state, will recognize the Armenian Genocide…. Turkey will have to recognize the Genocide. If it won’t do it today, it will do it tomorrow. How could it evade historical justice?"

In an interview conducted by Paul Chaderjian and aired on April 24 on Armenia TV, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said: "Today, the children of the survivors and the Government of Armenia, both, have been transformed from victims to activists working with the international community to right a historical wrong, to acknowledge a crime against humanity and to advocate prevention of such crimes in the future…. Today, in its search for European Union membership, Turkey is having to deal with history and memory and identity. And of course, the existence of an Armenian state means that we can raise these issues at an official government level."

When asked if it would not be wiser to let the Diaspora pursue the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the Foreign Minister emphatically responded: "The Genocide affected every single Armenian. The responsibility to right the memory of that wrong rests with all of us. The Armenian Government has the moral responsibility to speak about the Genocide of the Armenians, and to call for Genocide recognition. This responsibility is one we fully acknowledge. In fact, the active involvement of the Armenian Government and its representatives has also played a role in the progress of the recognition process. The podiums and forums that are available to the representatives of a state are many and we use them to make our case to the international community. At the same time, as a responsible member of that community, we know that we cannot make Genocide recognition a pre-condition to our relationship with the Republic of Turkey. The irony is that we, the survivors and victims of Genocide, don’t make normal relations conditional on its recognition, yet the Turkish side often suggests that Armenia should put Genocide recognition aside if it wants normal relations with Turkey. Clearly, we cannot."

Foreign Minister Oskanian then provided the possible reasons for Turkey’s refusal to face the Genocide issue: "There is perhaps a fear that entering this realm, embarking on a relationship with Armenians will place them in a morally uncomfortable and undesirable situation, and that they will be held responsible for those events. I cannot repeat this often enough: Armenians are able to distinguish between the perpetrators and today’s Turkey. But Turks themselves must be willing to do what is morally right and reject and denounce the crimes of the Ottoman Empire. Otherwise, today’s denial means implicit endorsement or acceptance of those past crimes."

Continuing to express his serious concerns over the denial of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey, Minister Oskanian said: "Justifying, even revering the genocidal state policy of one regime has become the state policy of another regime. Denial is state policy, just as genocide is state policy. It is today's Turkish State that is wasting money and credibility on denying, distorting, dismissing serious crimes against humanity committed during the Ottoman years. Not only are they denying history, they are also legislating denial by making it difficult, if not impossible, to actually dig into this painful issue and come face to face with difficult historic and political realities. It is safe to say that Turkish society -- writers, historians, journalists -- are in fact seeking and trying to reach their own conclusions about what really happened. It is the state that insists on rejecting those questions even. The people of Turkey are searching for answers. The memoir of US Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, the British Blue Book, the works of Vahakn Dadrian and Peter Balakian can be found in Turkish, in Turkey. We welcome this, because before there can be dialogue with Armenians, there must be internal questioning and dialogue in Turkey."

The Armenian Foreign Minister concluded with an ominous warning: "The longer it takes for Turks to repudiate those acts, the more today's Turks and yesterday's Ottomans will become synonymous in people's minds."

After such strong statements by the President, Prime Minister, Deputy Parliament Speaker, Foreign Minister, and Deputy Defense Minister of Armenia, it would be preposterous for any Turkish official to claim that the Armenian state has no interest in pursuing the Genocide issue. All Armenians, be they in Armenia or the Diaspora, are united in their resolve to demand that the Turkish Republic acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and make appropriate amends.

May 11, 2006


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