YEREVAN—In an interview with Euronews, Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian reiterated his country’s view that the mass killings and deportations of Armenians under Ottoman Turkish rule should be termed a genocide.
“Without a doubt, the recognition of the genocide by the Turks is the shortest path to the reconciliation of our nations. And it is my strong conviction that, if it is done sincerely, I believe, in a short period of time, relations between Armenia and Turkey could reach a new and quite a high level.”
“The events that will commemorate the victims of the genocide contain in themselves a few messages,” President Sarkisian said.
“The first one is the message of remembrance. We think the crimes against humanity cannot be forgotten with time. The second message during the events is gratitude, which is directly linked to the message of remembrance. It is gratitude to those individuals, organizations and nations and states that at the most difficult moment for us spoke up and extended a helpful hand to us and helped some of our people to survive. The third message is a mix of both remembrance and gratitude that leads towards prevention against the recurrence of such crimes and it is our duty to find out and point out the patterns and the causal relations that can later turn into this type of crime. With this we say that it is necessary to fight against these particular phenomena in order to be able to prevent future genocides and other crimes against humanity from recurring. And a final general message, the fourth one, is the message of a nation rising from the ashes. We say that those who wished us harm did not succeed in erasing us from the Earth.”
Speaking about the prospects of reconciliation, Serzh Sarkisian said: “I myself in my capacity as the president of the Republic of Armenia have tried two times to embark upon this path. And the two presidents who preceded me tried to embark upon that same path. We have declared our intention to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey without any preconditions. After that, parties could have discussed and addressed all issues that exist between them. The second such attempt was made on the eve of the Armenian Genocide centennial. Several months in advance I sent a letter to the president of Turkey. That letter was delivered in person by our foreign minister to the appropriate Turkish officials, so it was not just a publicized action. And by that letter I invited him to partake in the April 24th events and to express jointly condolences and commemorate all victims. But the Turkish authorities decided otherwise: they decided to hold on April 24th – our genocide remembrance day –celebrations for the Gallipoli battle.”
In the past days the Turkish side has unleashed all their anger, there were harsh statements, unusually harsh reactions to the statement of the Pope, to a resolution voted by the European Parliament. “For us those statements and reactions of the Turkish side were not in any way or shape unexpected,” the Armenian President said.
“We have always heard and witnessed their denialist posturing. We have also seen that every time they renewed their toolbox of denial. With regard to the statement by His Holiness, I consider that to be an appropriate one. You know, I believe that a world free of crimes against humanity can be achieved only with the leadership of strong people. His holiness is a great leader, just and truth speaking.”
As for Turkey’s proposal to set up a commission of historians, President Sarkisian said: “First, from the very beginning it is incorrect since I am not aware of a case that historians sat down, made a decision and the question was settled once and for all. This was the first point. Secondly, I cannot imagine how such a commission shall operate, since the Turkish historians would be under pressure of the Turkish society and Turkish authorities’ pressure, and the Armenian historians would be under the pressure of the Armenian society and Armenian authorities’. But even these are not the most important arguments. The most important is the following: the specialized structures, countries that posess the largest archives on this issue have no doubts about it. There are no doubts about it and I again return to what happened at the Vatican: what do you think, isn’t the Vatican one of the most well informed of the events that unfolded during the First World War? What do you think, does the Vatican feel a shortage of well-educated historians? For us such a proposal in itself is an insulting one since it questions the very fact and veracity of the Armenian Genocide. Ultimately, what will the historians find out? How many people died? And is there a significant difference whether one and a half million people or one million four hundred forty nine thousand people died?”