Panorama.am’s Nvard Chalikyan recently spoke to French Member of Parliament Francois Rochebloine, who introduced a bill in France’s National Assembly criminalizing the public denial of the Armenian Genocide. The interview, in which Rochebloine speaks about the Genocide bill and other Armenian issues, is below.
NVARD CHALIKYAN: Mr. Rochebloine, you have been the author and the promoter of the law criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide in France. What new steps are to be taken in this regard, particularly on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015?
FRANCOIS ROCHEBLOINE: First of all, I am proud to have been an author of the law passed in January 2001 by which France publicly recognized the Armenian Genocide of 1915. This was a fundamental act of reparation which demonstrated our solidarity with the Armenian people.
Then, as you mentioned, I was also directly involved in drafting and discussing the law that criminalizes the denial of the Armenian Genocide. As we know the Constitutional Council of France has repealed that law; it based its decision on an argument which I personally disagree with, but which according to experts is very hard to dispute. The President of France has pledged to resume the examination of this question but so far hasn’t come up with a specific initiative, which is not surprising. This comes to prove that this is a very delicate matter.
I have proposed that in our fight against denialism we present the question in the broadest way possible so that the criminalization refers not only to the Armenian Genocide but equally to all the genocides. The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide may serve as a good occasion for raising this issue once again.
N.C.: For countries like France which have recognized the Armenian Genocide, what should the next phase of this process be? How can a shift be made towards the phase of demanding reparations from Turkey and what should the international community do in this regard?
F.R.: Your question in fact asks how the international community, led mostly by countries which have, one way or another, recognized the Armenian Genocide, can force Turkey to make the reparations that it owes to the Armenian people, whose extermination it organized a century ago.
Well, first of all I think Turkey has to once and for all to accept its total responsibility. In this regard the condolence sent by Prime Minister Erdogan is an ambiguous and insufficient gesture. The Turkish intellectuals who courageously try to raise this question in their country and generate a public discussion on this issue are facing a major risk. In this regard the first step to be taken is to support them and try to protect them from pressure and persecutions.
Second, we must continuously repeat from all the international platforms the following simple message – Turkey is a very developed country economically and has big ambitions. No big nation can live carrying the burden of such a grave crime committed in the past. This is a question of respect towards oneself and others. For me personally this is a constant question of concern when I participate for instance in the activities of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
N.C.: In the article recently published in Le Monde you call for the international recognition of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic; you also express your concern about Azeri provocations on the line of contact, Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian propaganda and war rhetoric. Could you comment on the latest Azeri agression on the Nagorno Karabakh border? What steps must be taken to counter these actions of Azerbaijan and how can the recognition of the NKR by the international community mitigate these threats?
F.R.: It has been 20 years already since the ceasefire put a temporary stop to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. To this day peace has not yet been completely established on the line of contact, however the latest intensification of ceasefire breaches comes to prove that the Azeri provocations are not random acts but are tests programmed by the Azerbaijani army and its leaders with the purpose of testing the resistance of the Nagorno Karabakh defence forces. These instances furthermore reinforce my concerns. They must be harshly condemned. Unfortunately the tragic events in Syria and Iraq divert the attention of the international community from the South Caucasus. For this reason the friends of Nagorno Karabakh must multiply their vigilance and their support.
The Nagorno Karabakh Republic is a sovereign state with all the characteristics of the state defined by the international law. It has territory, population, stable state institutions and above all, also corresponds to international standards of democracy. The recognition of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic will be an expression of political lucidity and at the same time it will ensure greater stability for the people of Nagorno Karabakh which as all nations has the right to peaceful and secure existence.
The Circle of the Friends of Nagorno Karabakh that I have the honour to preside aims to present the realities of this country in France and to ensure greater support for it. This is a challenging task; it requires great consistency and perseverance, as the adverse propaganda affects the public opinion and the politicians.