The Armenian Relief Society and the Armenian National Committee participate in UN-sponsored conference.
DURBIN–South Africa–A week-long conference dedicated to the combating of world racism and discrimination–began on August 31–with the participating of official delegations from 153 countries. Aside from the official delegation from Armenia–the Armenian Relief Society–the Armenian National Committee and the Bridges of Hope organization represented the Armenian nation at the conference.
Prior to the commencement of the conference–representatives from non-governmental organizations was held. Moreover–on Sept.–1–a large-scale meeting took place condemning racism and all manners of discrimination.
The previous meetings held in Geneva–clearly demonstrated that this conference will have political motivation.. Specifically discussed: were the crisis in the Middle East and the Arab world’s insistence on comparing racism with Zionism–which was strongly opposed by Israeli and the US delegations.
Initially–the US delegation headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell opted to boycott the conference. However–a not so high-level delegation–represented by Ambassador Michael Southwick attended the conference. The last-minute departure of State Secretary Colin Powell from the conference was officially presented as protest against the characterization that Israel received in the meeting.
According to conference observers–the Arab-Israeli conflict was just an excuse for Washington–since the US was concerned about the discussion of the compensation processes stemming from the discussion of racism and discrimination.
The aforementioned issues were discussed during opening remarks by UN General Secretary Kofi Anan and UN Human Rights Secretary Mary Robinson.
"The sufferings of the Jewish Holocaust must never be forgotten–but at the same time the mistakes made against the Palestinian people must not be ignored as well," said Anan. "I would like to ask you to agree with the main goals of the conference rather than attempt to resolve all international agenda issues," said Mary Robinson. Thus–the issues discussed during the conference–as well as beyond the session–which were regarded as "troubling" and "difficult to handle" still garnered considerable attention during the course of the meeting.
The Armenian delegation is headed by Armenia’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Karen Nazaryan. According to Nazaryan–Armenia and the Armenian people–who have suffered a Genocide–the highest level of ethnic discrimination–are willing to view and discuss the issue from a racism perspective. The Armenian delegation also includes the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s director of the international organization division Vahram Kajoyan and Armenian Embassy in Geneva’s first secretary Tigran Samvelyan. The Armenian delegation assured the foreign minister Vardan Oskanian is following the developmen’s of the conference closely.
Two other Armenian organizations–the Armenian Relief Society–a member of UN’s ECOSOC as a NGO and the Armenian National Committee were present at the summit as well. The ARS–which has experience at such international conferences–was represented by Seta Khdshian–Penelope Giragosian and Khachik Der-Ghugasian. Pedro Muradian–a representative from Armenian National Committee–also participated as a member from the Argentine delegation. Hilda Choboyan–a representative of the Covcas Center in Europe was amongthe participants for the preliminary sessions of the conference.
The Armenian delegation’s aim was to bring Genocide issue to the forefront of the conference agenda and ensure its discussion within the final declaration and the archives of the conference–an undertaking –which will meet with strong opposition from Turkey and Azerbaijan–as well as their allies.
Within his remarks presented at the conference–Foreign Minister Oskanian said that the Armenian Genocide was the culmination of ethnic persecution. The remarks–presented by Vahram Kajoyan stressed the correlation between the Genocide and the people’s desire for self-determination.
Kajoyan said that even today some circles consider Genocide as an understandable and reasonable mass murder against revolts. "If –however–humanity is not responsible for it–it is still responsible for not condemning it," he added. Expressing gratitude to the countries and their parliamen’s that have recognized the Armenian Genocide–Foreign Minister Oskanian urged others to recognize it as well.
The Armenian delegation discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a clear example of Baku’s persecution–the only way of out from which was the pursuit and articulation of the will for self-determination.
"We have suffered terrible savagery and our hope is that other nations do not meet the same fate," Kajoian concluded–saying that the President of Armenia Robert Kocharian has signed an international document–the preparation of which was undertaken by Mary Robinson and Nelson Mandela.
As was expected–the Turkish and Azeri representatives strongly opposed the initiatives of the Armenian delegation.
The diplomats representing the two countries repeated their customary of Genocide denial during the session held on September 2. "The concept of Genocide must not be regarded lightheartedly," stated the Turkish representative–adding that the characterization by Armenia’s is "completely false."
He also responded to commen’s made by the Greek representatives–saying that the 1974 Turkish military invasion of Cyprus–saying that "the incident was simply an effort to stop the bloodshed."
The Azeri representative–qualified Kajoyan’s speech as being irresponsible. Emphasizing the principle of territorial integrity–he called the assessmen’s of Armenia’s as propaganda. He added that Armenia’s were the ones responsible for ethnic cleansing and deportations in Azerbaijan–going as far as saying the Sumgait massacres were orchestrated by Armenia’s.
Ambassador Nazaryan responded simply by reminding the conference attendees about the 1.5 million victims of the Genocide as being a reality saying that "We are still very sensitive to the Genocide issue–since Turkey has not recognized it yet." Urging Turkey to drop its opposition–Nazaryan expressed certainty that the Turkish recognition of the Genocide will greatly contribute to breaking the barriers between the two peoples. Addressing the Azeri delegates–Nazaryan urged to exercise caution in utilizing differing figures as propaganda tools.
The Turkish representative spoke for the second time quoting the following–"We wish that Armenia’s will find an alternative in dealing with their troubled past in order to identify themselves."
Aside from presenting the two reports–the Armenian delegation also involved itself with the drafting of the final declaration–bringing forth two concrete proposals–which included the acceleration of education about the Genocide and the inclusion of self-determination as a separate chapter in the declaration.