Foreign Minister’s Excellent Commentary in Le Figaro, with Some Shortcomings

Harut Sassounian


Even though it is not an easy task to unify Armenians around a common set of restitutive demands from Turkey, it is critical to do so on the eve of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.

It is imperative that Armenians speak with one voice, telling the world what exactly they want from Turkey, because divergent demands would send a confusing message. Some Armenians would be satisfied with a simple acknowledgment of the Genocide and apology from the Turkish government. Others are after financial restitution, open borders, Black Sea access, and the return of Mount Ararat. Maximalists, including this author, demand everything that Armenians lost during the Genocide: restitution for the murders of 1.5 million Armenians, and recovery of their properties, bank accounts, churches, schools, cemeteries, and territories of Western Armenia. In previous columns, I have advocated the use of the general term — seeking justice — to summarize all Armenian demands from Turkey.

Being a ‘maximalist’ implies not only reclaiming everything Armenians lost during the Genocide, but also employing an optimum negotiating strategy. Why ask for the minimum and end up with even less? Wouldn’t it be wiser to begin with maximal demands and strike the best possible bargain?

These were some of my thoughts as I read the well-written commentary of Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, published in Le Figaro last week: “Turkey should reconcile with its own past.” He correctly labels as ‘fabricated’ and ‘misleading’ the recent use by Pres. Erdogan and other Turkish officials of the terms ‘common pain’ and ‘just memory’ in reference to the Armenian Genocide. Nalbandian also rejects the Turkish proposal for a “commission of historians in order to find the truth” about the Armenian Genocide. Unfortunately, this sinister proposal was included in the Armenian-Turkish Protocols of 2009 which the Foreign Minister continues to support in his article. Furthermore, rather than simply castigating Turkey for denying the Armenian Genocide and seeking ‘reconciliation’ through ‘recognition and condemnation of the Genocide,’ the Foreign Minister should have asked for ‘justice’ that encompasses all Armenian demands.

At the end of his in depth commentary, Nalbandian reminds Le Figaro readers that Pres. Sargsyan had invited Pres. Erdogan “to visit Armenia on April 24, 2015, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. We hope it will not be a missed opportunity and Turkey’s President will be in Yerevan on that day.”

Clearly, Armenia is trying to put the Turkish President in a difficult corner: he will either reject the invitation, making him look bad in the eyes of the world, or come to Armenia on April 24, 2015, and acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

To pursue this clever scheme, the Foreign Minister of Armenia took the unusual step of attending Pres. Erdogan’s August 28 inauguration to hand over Pres. Sargsyan’s formal invitation. Nalbandian’s Ankara visit came right after Erdogan insulted Armenians by complaining on Turkish television that some people called him Georgian, and “even worse, they called me an Armenian.”

I seriously doubt that Erdogan would show up in Yerevan on the Armenian Genocide Centennial. If he does not, Armenian officials would be elated that their ploy worked, making Erdogan look like an obstructionist. But, what if the Turkish President does come to Armenia on April 24, 2015? Erdogan may say and do a lot of outlandish things, but he is a wily politician who can easily evade the Armenian trap and turn the tables on his hosts. He could go to the Genocide Memorial Monument in Yerevan and announce that he has come to ‘share the pain’ of all victims of World War I, including Turks and Armenians. That would be a great public relations coup for Erdogan!

Just last week, Pres. Erdogan took a tough stand against Armenia during his visit to Azerbaijan. He told Pres. Aliyev (for the thousandth time) that Turkey will not open its borders with Armenia until the latter withdraws from Karabagh (Artsakh). The newly-appointed Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made similar harsh anti-Armenian remarks. In return, Pres. Aliyev pledged to support Turkey in ‘exposing the fictional Armenian genocide.’

It is clear that Turkey and Azerbaijan are escalating their rhetoric and planning joint efforts against Armenia rather than looking for reconciliation. Under these circumstances, Armenia should take an equally tough stand against the two hostile Turkic states, starting with the immediate withdrawal of Armenia’s signature from the Armenian-Turkish Protocols.

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  1. Zareh said:

    Dear Harut,
    No one is giving us lands. No one will give us lands. No one has ever given lands to another country. You are naive in thinking that Turkey would compensate Armenians for their losses. Lands are not given, they are taken. Just like Artsakh. At this historic junction Armenia is in no position to take lands from Turkey, a NATO country. So, yah forget about that and your sensationalist requests from Turkey. The first order for Armenians world wide is to stop the emigration from Armenia. That is only possible by creating jobs in the homeland, jobs that pay more than what Russia pays for our citizens in Russia. With economic growth Armenians will feel better about their future in the homeland and birth rates will go up. I remember my late history teacher in Lebanon, Mr. Kersam Aharonian. He always said, as long as Armenia’s population is less than five million, Armenia’s existence is in question. Armenia’s population should rise to the five million people, the per capita income as of today is around 3 thousand dollars, unemployment is over 20percent. Per capita income should rise to 20 thousand dollars. That will be an incentive for diaspora Young families to immigrate and hence we will have a virtuous cycle.
    Second we need to protect our new republic in Artsakh. Artsakh can feed more than two million people with its rich soil and plentiful water. Armenians from the Middle East should be given free land in Artsakh so they can build their future just like the United States gave free land with a condition that the land be cultivated. Artsakh’s population is only 140 thousand after almost twenty years of liberation. Artsakh so population should have been over three hundred Thousand by now. And by 2030 the population should be above half a million people.
    Third, The Armenian Diasporas in America, Europe , Canada and the Middle East are melting away. Hardly any of the fourth generation Armenians speak Armenian fluently or write with impeccable dictation. Hardly any of them know the name of the president of Armenia or the name of the Catholicos in Antelias or Armenia.
    Fourth, I believe that the oligarchs in Armenia should be liquidated. They are no different than the mafia bosses of New York. They should be prosecuted by the judiciary on tax evasion and put in prison for long periods of time. The people in Armenia should be able to compete in a fair and equitable environment. Mafia bosses with their intimidation so only hamper new businesses. Armenia needs a president that will give wide authority to the judicial branch prosecuting tax dodgers. The judiciary should have full protection including their family members. Yes, it will be hard in the beginning, however after few indictments and prison sentences the rest of the oligarchs will think twice. Even one oligarch in prison will make a difference.
    Fifth, Armenians should stop trusting superpowers. Superpowers do whatever is in their best interest. They care about having markets for their products or suck the natural resources of weaker countries. An Armenia with a population of 10 million and per capita income of 20 thousand dollars will have the ear of global entrepreneurs. An educated population with a tech savvy youth will become global innovators. I give the most credit to my friend Sam who founded the TUMO project. What a brilliant and patriotic Armenian.
    Armenians would have built a small TUMO in Stepanakert with the 2.7 million dollars they spent to build a marble church in Siberia. What a waste of money. 2.7 million dollars would have created at least 150-200 jobs in Armenia. 200 Armenians would not have thought of leaving to Russia.
    This much for now.

    • Armenian said:

      Thank you. It’s time to realize that no territory is ever willfully given to another party. We already have a country, and it’s time to start paying attention to the dire problems going on there instead of demanding land from a country whose response will always be an unequivocal “never”.

    • seto zoravar said:

      Well said Zareh , i agree with everything you said , i just want to add that it is time for all of us Armenians to unite under one Nation and one Republic slogan .

    • Hratch said:

      We have fallen into the victim mentality trap. We have so weakened our psyche that we have forgotten what our strengths are and how to use them. Our failed leadership has us chasing delusion concepts instead of grasping reality and working with what we actually possess.

  2. GeorgeMardig said:

    Armenia should take this opportunity to withdraw it’s signature from the Armenian-Turkish Protocols.

  3. GeorgeMardig said:

    …. . At this historic junction Armenia is in no position to take lands from Turkey, a NATO country….. The West can make justice by returning Armenian land and by establishing pro WEST pro NATO Armenia, Western Armenia, what’s wrong in having 2 Armenias

  4. Hilda Tchoboian said:

    Another concept is “Reparation” which exists in the International Law, and is usually mistranslated in Armenian into ” Hadoutsoum” (littterally “compensation”) sounding somewhat venal. Reparation is more that compensation, it includes the moral and educational issues as well as the material ones.