Woodrow Wilson’s Arbitral Award the Best Solution, Says Ara Papian

A scene from the Vigil (photo by Nora Yacoubian)

Dr. Ara Papian, the director of the Modus Vivendi center in Yerevan, delivered the  keynote address at the annual Armenian Genocide commemoration vigil, organized by the San Gabriel Valley community at the Montebello Armenian Genocide Martyrs’ Monument. This year, the event took place on Saturday, April 23.

Below is the text of his address:

Dear friends, distinguished guests,
The Armenian Genocide during the World War I and after went down the history as a crystal-clear example of unpunished crime that reinvented itself in Nazi extermination of the Jews, the Gypsies and the Slavic peoples. The annihilation of an entire civilization that occurred under the apathetic eye of the world at the turn of the XX century ricocheted right into our lifetime with the destruction of innocent people in Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The principle of an ignored crime backfired again.

All Genocides have a common denominator – it is brutal and premeditated killing of hundreds of thousands and millions of people, huge loses of cultural values and property. Unfortunately, the Armenian Genocide has something in particular that makes it deferent and it stands separately from all other Genocides. In addition to human loses and destruction of our heritage we lost the most valuable thing that a nation can possess – we lost our Homeland. The Armenian massacres and deportations uprooted men, women and children who were living on their ancestral homeland for several millennia, reducing a once vibrant region into open graves and ghost towns throughout Anatolia and Western Armenia. It is a sad fact that today there are less than 60,000 Armenians left in Turkey. After the 1.5 million killed, the remaining survivors and their descendants are now dispersed throughout the world.

Dear friends,
Armenian territorial rights are based upon several international instruments. The most important of them is the Arbitral Award by the United States President Woodrow Wilson, done on November 22, 1920, which by a binding decision and conclusively defined the boundary between Armenia and Turkey. Because of the time constraint, I will not go into details of this document. Especially when the full text of the Arbitral Award in English (more than 240 pages) with detailed notes and indices will come out in Yerevan at the end of next month – on May 28. However, it is important to give the general overview of the Arbitral Award, which we Armenians rightfully consider as the Bible of our territorial rights.

As you may know, the Republic of Armenia declared her independence on May 28, 1918. One and half years after this declaration, on January 19, 1920, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers finally agreed to recognize the government of the Armenian State on the condition that the recognition should not prejudge the question of the eventual frontier.1 The United States recognized the Republic of Armenia on April 23, 1920, on the same condition. By the way, the United States refused to recognize the independence of Georgia and Azerbaijan because of their unlawful claims to Armenian territory.2

On April 26, 1920, the Supreme Council meeting at San Remo requested the President of the United States two things:

1. The United States assume a mandate over Armenia;

2. The President of the United States to make an Arbitral Decision to fix the boundary of Armenia with Turkey.3 As you may know, the Armenian mandate was rejected by Senate vote on June 1, 1920. Nevertheless, the American answer to the second request was positive and on May 17, 1920, the Secretary of State informed the American Ambassador in France that the President had agreed to act as arbitrator.4 For the implementation of the task, the State Department began to assemble a team of experts in mid-July 1920 headed by Professor William Westermann, from Wisconsin University. The state department put together a committee, entitled: “The Committee upon the Arbitration of the Boundary between Turkey and Armenia”. As the Treaty of Sevres was signed on August 10, 1920, the boundary committee began its deliberations. The fact of signing the Treaty of Sevres is important because the compromis, i.e. the application for the arbitration, is included in the Treaty as Article 89. It must be underlined that the status of the compromis has nothing to do with the status of the main Treaty, thus with ratification or non-ratification of the Treaty. Therefore, as the State Department received the authenticated copy of the Treaty on October 18, 1920, it was sufficient for the President officially to conclude the arbitration without waiting the ratification of the Treaty of Sevres.

On November 22, 1920,5 Woodrow Wilson signed the final award with seven enclosed appendices. So under the Arbitral Award of November 22, 1920, the border between Armenia and Turkey was settled conclusively and without appeal, because, as clearly states The Hague Convention6 (article 54 of the 1899 edition and article 81 of the 1907 edition):7 “The award, duly pronounced and notified to the agents of the parties, settles the dispute definitively and without appeal.” 8

Few words on the content of the Arbitral Award. According to the Arbitral Award, the title and the rights of the Republic of Armenia were recognized on the large part of the provinces of Van, Bitlis, Erzerum and Trebizond. It was less than the half of the territory on which the Armenian title was recognized by the article 24 of the Mudros armistice on October 30, 1918. This drastic cutback was due to far-reaching reduction of native Armenian population, because of the Armenian Genocide.

Now briefly on the most important issue – the present status of the Arbitral Award. As indicates the official Manual of the Terminology of Public International Law of the United Nations, for the arbitral award to be valid it must meet four criteria:9

Criterion 1: The arbitrators must not have been subjected to any undue external influence such as coercion, bribery or corruption;
Criterion 2: The production of proofs must have been free from fraud and the proofs produced must not have contained any essential errors;
Criterion 3: The compromis must have been valid;
Criterion 4: The arbitrators must not have exceeded their powers.

Due to time limits, I will not go into details. However, after assessing Wilson’s Arbitral award against the abovementioned criteria, it can be declared confidently: The Arbitral Award of Woodrow Wilson is still a valid and legally obligatory document, because the indispensable feature of an arbitral award is that it produces an award that is final and binding. By agreeing to submit the dispute to arbitration, i.e. signing a compromis, the parties in advance agree to accept the decision.10 Therefore, in spite of the long-standing occupation, Turkey does not possess any legal title to the territory of Wilsonian Armenia. After the arbitral award of the US President, signed and sealed on November 22, 1920, Turkish presence over there is not more than an administrative control alike of Turkish status in Northern Cyprus. Thus, the presence and all acts taken by the Turkish Republic in the “Wilsonian Armenia” are illegal and invalid, because the belligerent occupation does not yield lawful rule over a territory.

It is true that international law by itself will not be able to bring about a solution for the Armenian-Turkish confrontation. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that international law is the only way to bring about a just and peaceful resolution, thus a durable and permanent solution. The main basis for the lawful solution of long-standing Armenian- Turkish problem are not the infamous Armenian-Turkish protocols, but the Arbitral Award, done over 90 years ago in the capital city of this country by 28th President of the United States of America Woodrow Thomas Wilson.


1 G. H. Hackworth, Digest of International Law, Turkish‐Armenian Boundary Question, vol. I, Chapters I-V, Washington, 1940, p. 715.
2 (H. Lauterpacht, Recognition in International Law, Cambridge, 1947, p. 11. Papers Relating to Foreign Relations of the United States, 1920, v. III, Washington, 1936. p.
778.) [hereinafter – FRUS].
3 The Treaties of Peace, 1919‐1923, (Preface by Lt.‐Col. Lawrence Martin).vol. I, New York, 1924, p. xxxii.
4 Ibid., p. 783.
5 Cukwurah A. O., The Settlement of Boundary Disputes in International Law, Manchester, 1967, pp. 165-166.
6 The 1899 Convention was ratified by Turkey on July 12, 1907. (The Hague Court Reports, op. cit., p. cii).
7 This notion was comprised in article # 54 of the 1899 Convention with slightly deferent wording: “The award, duly pronounced and notified to the agents of the
parties [at variance, puts an end to] the dispute definitively and without appeal.”( The Hague Court Reports, op. cit., p. lxxxix).
8 Ibid.
9 Manual of the Terminology of Public International Law, op.cit., § 508, pp. 588‐590.
10 Ibid., p. 27.


Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.


  1. zohrab said:

    what are we waiting for its ours demand it now
    .if there are such documents then put it in front of all agendas

  2. Hrant K. said:

    Did the global community have to wait 90 years (50 years in case of Uruguay) , to acknowledge and

    recognize the Armenian Genocide, with the exception of the United Kingdom, 6 US states and the Federal

    Government (including our dear President Obama)? It is now high time for our President to precede the 6

    remaining shameful Governors in recognizing the Genocide and urging Turkey to implement the Wilsonian

    Arbitral Border Award , now that Osama Bin Laden is eliminated, the War on terror is on the brink of final

    Victory, the irrelevence of Turkey is daily growing , because the latter is acting like a Cameleon,

    accusing Armenians of occupying Nagorno Karabakh, which is a historically and demographically a pure

    Armenian Land, while they have 37 years ago unlawfully occupied a Greek (Northern Cyprus) Territory.

    28 Million Kurds, 17 Million Alawites, over 30 Turkic tribes and various other minorities, like Jews, Greeks

    and Armenians are being treated as 2nd, 3rd and 4th Class citizens. And yet they, the nomads, claim

    themselves as a Democratic State !