BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s hysterical outburst at Armenia’s President last week had the salutary effect of publicizing to a worldwide audience Armenian territorial demands from Turkey!
By distorting and exaggerating President Serzh Sarkisian’s remarks to a group of schoolchildren in Dsaghgatsor, Armenia, on July 23, Erdogan created a gigantic mountain out of a molehill! Anyone who reads the Armenian President’s actual words would find it hard to believe that they could be the cause of Erdogan’s foaming at the mouth!
Krikor Hampartsumian, a Shahumian Middle School student from the Ararat Region, asked President Sarkisian: “…I would be interested in knowing whether our future would be reminiscent of a German diplomat’s description of the Batum Agreement — they gave us enough room to swim in Lake Sevan, but not enough room to dry up — or a future that would see the return of Western Armenia along with Ararat?”
Pres. Sarkisian calmly responded: “It all depends on you and your generation. I believe my generation fulfilled its task when it was necessary in the early 1990’s to defend a part of our homeland — Karabakh — from enemies. We were able to do that…. My point is that each generation has its own task, and it must be able to carry it out, and carry it out well. If you and your peers spare no effort, and if those older and younger than you act the same way, we will have one of the best countries in the world. Trust me, a country’s clout is not always measured by its land mass. The country should be modern, secure, and prosperous. These are prerequisites that allow a nation to sit along with prominent, strong, and reputed nations of the world. We should all fulfill our duties, be active, industrious, and engage in good deeds. And we can accomplish that very easily. It would not be the first time in our history that we achieve it. I have no doubts about it, and I don’t want you to have any doubts either. We are a nation like a Phoenix that always rises from the ashes.”
This simple exchange between the President and the young student was blown out of all proportion by Azeri and Turkish officials. Journalists in both countries tried to outdo each other in their hysterical attacks on Armenia, accusing Pres. Sarkisian of “urging Armenian youth to occupy Mt. Ararat and Eastern Turkey.” Insulting adjectives were hurled at Armenia’s President by Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinch, Minister Egemen Bagis, Pres. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, and the Foreign Ministries of both countries. To incite the masses, protests were organized in Turkish cities where photographs of Pres. Sarkisian were burned!
Incredibly, Erdogan had the audacity of demanding an apology from Pres. Sarkisian. The Turkish Prime Minister’s score on failed demands for apology from the leaders of Israel, Germany, and Armenia now stands at 3 to 0. Erdogan should not hold his breath waiting for Armenia to apologize! Before making such an outrageous demand, Turkish leaders must first apologize for the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide, and return all confiscated Armenian properties, including Western Armenia and Mt. Ararat, as suggested by this erudite student who deserves to be honored by Armenian organizations as a role model for the young generation.
What was the real cause of the Turkish and Azeri hysteria? Did Erdogan have a bad translator or simply bad intentions? It is probably the latter. He delivered his outrageous remarks while standing next to Pres. Aliyev during a press conference in Baku last week. Erdogan may have wanted to impress his “junior brother” with his anti-Armenian zeal and provide a false justification to the international community for not keeping his word on the Armenia-Turkey Protocols and refusing to open the border with Armenia. He may have also intended to be excessively harsh so that no Armenian official would ever again hint at territorial claims from Turkey.
This episode demonstrates that papering over historical injustices by pressuring Armenia to sign defeatist Protocols will not eliminate the deeply-held grievances of a victimized people. The Armenian-Turkish confrontation will not be resolved until justice is done to the Armenian nation. Pursuing justice is the task of all Armenians, this generation and the next. There will be no peace for Turkey without justice for Armenians!
In addition to their gratitude to the impressive youngster and Pres. Sarkisian, Armenians should be thankful to Prime Minister Erdogan for his hysterical overreaction which helped bring Armenian territorial demands to the attention of the international media and the world community!