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      Kocharian About Territories

Kocharian About Territories   21/07/2005

What Did Kocharian Actually Say About
Demanding Territories from Turkey?

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Three months ago, Pres. Kocharian made a rare appearance in front of
students at Yerevan State University. After his official remarks dealing
with the state of affairs in Armenia, the President responded at length to
more than 20 questions from the students.

The President’s answer to one particular question made headlines both in
Armenia and Turkey. It dealt with the possibility of Armenia demanding
territories from Turkey following its recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

This is a very sensitive issue that has serious repercussions not only on
Turkish-Armenian relations, but also on the efforts of third parties trying
to nudge Turkey into recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

The question of whether the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the
Turks may lead to Armenian territorial demands from Turkey is discussed
widely not only in Ankara, Washington and Paris, but also among Armenians
worldwide.

Some Armenians say that they would be satisfied if the Turks simply admitted
that genocide was committed against the Armenians. In other words, if the
Turks stopped denying the Genocide, Armenians and Turks could then turn a
new page in their relationship.

Most Armenians, however, maintain that Turkey’s admission of the occurrence
of the Genocide is not sufficient at all. That would not wipe away the
cataclysmic consequences of the murders committed against the Armenian
nation. They believe that today’s Turkish government has the responsibility
of making amends for the losses suffered by the Armenians. They contend that
Turkey must return the confiscated properties and assets to the descendants
of the victims of the Genocide, give back the historic Armenian territories,
and finally, pay financial compensation for the murder of 1.5 million
Armenians.

Those who would be satisfied by the mere recognition of the genocide often
lecture other Armenians about the realities of the modern world and the fact
that it would be unrealistic to expect Turkey to return any territories or
pay compensation to Armenians. They also question if Armenians demanding the
lands would be willing to relocate to Western Armenia (Eastern Turkey),
should the Turks agree to return these mostly desolate lands.

Those who make such minimalist demands do not understand that while it is
highly unlikely that the Turks would make amends for the Genocide anytime
soon, voluntarily giving up one’s historic rights would ensure that
Armenians would end up getting nothing.

Pres. Kocharian understands well the sensitivity of this issue ever since he
got himself into hot water several years ago when he responded to a similar
question from a prominent Turkish reporter. At that time, the President was
severely criticized by Armenians from around the world for having supposedly
said, according to the distorted transcript of the Turkish reporter, that
Armenia had no territorial demands from Turkey. The problem was compounded
by the fact that despite the uproar about the President’s alleged statement,
his aides never bothered to release to the public his actual words. They let
the Turks misrepresent to the world and to Armenians worldwide what Pres.
Kocharian had actually said.

A similar misrepresentation of the President’s words occurred earlier this
year. Once again, Pres. Kocharian’s statement was distorted by the Turkish
media. Here is what the President actually said as it was broadcast on
Armenian State TV, on April 11, 2005. I have translated his words from
Armenian into English:

“We have never raised in the name of any governmental body the issue of any
territorial demands. We have today on our foreign policy agenda the issue of
the recognition of the Genocide. What legal consequences that would have, is
an issue for future presidents and future political officials. But we must
also be realistic, and from that perspective, our expectations and reality
should not be too different. When they become too different, one can get
subsequently disillusioned. The more realistic we are, the less the
probability of subsequent disillusionment. We should now consistently
struggle for the recognition of the Genocide. Regarding the second segment
of that issue, the less we talk about it now, the better for us.”

The Turkish press distorted the President’s statement by reporting him
saying that Armenia had no demands from Turkey. Regrettably, Armenian
newspapers both in Armenia and the Diaspora reported these Turkish
distortions as facts.

Readers should note that Pres. Kocharian was careful to avoid acknowledging
that Armenia had territorial demands from Turkey, while just as carefully
refusing to state that Armenia did not have such claims. Given Armenia’s
many current political and economic problems, clearly this is not the right
time to make territorial claims from a powerful and hostile neighboring
state. Pres. Kocharian is correct in neither asserting such demands nor in
giving them up.

Armenians have to wait until such time when Armenia is strong enough to act
on those demands. As everyone knows, territories are not freely given. They
can only be taken by force or diplomacy backed by strength. The time for
that is definitely not now!


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