YEREVAN—Saying the terrible events at the turn of the last century reinforced the friendship between Armenians and French, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy said “France has recognized the crime against a whole nation,” calling it “Tseghaspanutiun” (The Armenian word for Genocide).
“Turkey should look its history into the face,” added Sarkozy during the opening ceremony of the Charles Aznavour Museum, which was attended by the world renowned singer and President Serzh Sarkisian.
The comments came a day after Sarkozy urged Turkey to face history and recognize the Genocide, adding that proper and additional measures would be required if Turkey failed to do so.
Sarkozy’s comments were swiftly criticized by the Turkish foreign ministry, which in a statement said Turkey was astounded and deeply regrest the statements by the French President.
“Such an inconsistent and imprudent handling of this serious matter that has human and moral dimensions is unfortunate. Political declarations based on one-sided information and reflecting accusatory judgments regarding historical events are very far from the fair approach that this issue requires and demonstrate a failure to even comprehend Turkey’s approach on the matter,” added the foreign ministry, which claimed that “this painful part of our long history with the Armenians can be freely debated in Turkey, unlike in some countries that are party to this issue or others that are not.”
“What is expected from France is to make a positive contribution to this process and to adopt a responsible approach and discourse that would show care to avoid both damaging the multi-dimensional relationship between Turkey and France and offending the Turkish community in France,” said the statement.
Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan was more crass in his criticism saying that Sarkozy was using the “Turkey card” to secure his re-election and warned that serious damage come to France-Turkey relations.
Erdogan condemned Sarkozy as he addressed the Turkish parliament on Tuesday. “This is not political leadership. Politics, first of all, requires honesty,” reported Agence France-Presse.
“There are 600,000 Armenians in your country but also 500,000 Turks. You have relations with Turkey,” Erdogan continued, addressing Sarkozy. “Bearing the title of statesman requires thinking about next generations, not next elections,” he said.
At the ceremony in Yerevan Sarkozy also addressed the unilateral blockade of Armenia by Turkey.
“Despite the lasting blockade, the artificial isolation and the sufferings, the 20-year-old Republic of Armenia has managed to withstand all challenges thanks to the virtues of its people, their diligence and the desire to succeed, features which admire Armenia’s friends, particularly France, convincing everyone that Armenia will be able to withstand the future challenges, as well,” he said.
“No country will understand what Nagorno Karabakh means to Armenia better than France. Seventeen years after the war, which caused so many deaths and sufferings, the time has come to resolve the conflict and find the way to reconciliation. I’ll also deliver this message to President Aliyev in Baku. The history of France and Germany shows that even the biggest pain can be softened and the deepest hatred can be overcome, and even during the most difficult moments of their history peoples can find the strength for reconciliation,” Nicolas Sarkozy said, adding that the friendship between Germany and France is the cornerstone of Europe today.
“You, Armenians and Azerbaijanis, should choose this path. The time has come for you to make a risky choice for peace, as there is no bigger danger than the preservation of status-quo which gives birth to illusions, provokes revenge and moves off all the prospects for peace,” he said.
“There exists one format to bolster the efforts of the international community for the settlement of the Karabakh issue – the Minsk Group. Each of three Co-Chair states enjoys the confidence of two sides and is involved in the process of definition of conditions for conflict settlement. But the Armenians and Azerbaijanis themselves should find this path themselves. We can help, but we can never establish peace instead of you,” Sarkozy stated.
Following the museum opening ceremony, Sarkozy was on hand at Yerevan’s France Square for the unveiling of sculpture by renowned artist Auguste Rodin of painter Jules Bastien-Lepage. The sculpture is a gift of the French Republic to the Republic of Armenia.