YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–CNN Turk released an interview of Armenian President Robert Kocharian with Mehmed Ali Birand–a well-known Turkish journalist who recently visited Armenia. The interview was also published in a number of Turkish newspapers under such headlines as "Armenia Says it Has No Territorial Claims" ("Post")–"It’s Enough for us to Offer an ‘Apology’" ("Radical")–"Kocharian Congratulates France" ("Huriet").
Below is the translation of the interview:
"Armenia is quite a different world. It is a small and poor state living by its past."
BIRAND: To date–everybody has talked and you have kept silent. How would you assess the French Parliament’s resolution? Have you reached your aim?
KOCHARIAN: It was first of all the aim of the Armenia’s of France. The Armenia’s of France wanted the Genocide to be recognized. I personally welcome France’s recognizing the events that occurred at the beginning of the century.
MAB: Do you feel satisfied?
RK: Yes–I do.
MAB: And that’s all?
RK: I am providing an answer that answers your question.
MAB: 2001 has been declared "the Year of Armenia’s". Armenia’s will put their efforts together to get similar bills adopted by the parliamen’s of other countries. Your "number one" target is said to be the US Congress. Is that true? Do you have similar thoughts?
RK: Who has declared 2001 the "Year of Armenia’s"?
MAB: I think Armenia and its Diaspora did. Your streets are replete with festive arrangemen’s.
RK: The year 2001 is the anniversary of the adoption of Christianity. The "Year of Armenia’s" must be connected with this date. But it has nothing to do with Genocide recognition. This subject has nothing to do with the celebrations of the 1700th anniversary.
MAB: Armenia and its Diaspora will work through this year to get the parliamen’s of the USA and other countries to adopt bills similar to that adopted by France–will they not?
RK: Yes–we will. I–too–think that the Diaspora will be active. It is the right of American Armenia’s. They are exercising this right.
MAB: Who is in the forefront of the genocide recognition campaign – Armenia or its Diaspora?
RK: Since the Soviet times and until recent years Armenia did not pay attention to these questions. All efforts on genocide recognition had been directed by the Diaspora. The Armenian Diaspora are descendants of the Genocide victims. After Armenia gained independence–it ought to clarify its position on this question. It was done by me from the United National tribune and during the Istanbul summit of the OSCE. It is a big problem whose roots are deep enough to turn it into a concern of both Armenia–its Diaspora and the entire world community. It is wrong to regard it as an initiative of an individual. I also could contribute. I am not leader of either American or French Armenia’s. I can’t figure out how I could pressure the US Congress. Is it so important where the process is directed from? The efforts of Armenia and its Diaspora go simultaneously–which proves more effective.
MAB: Alright. Let’s put the problem of leadership aside. First France and then Italy and Great Britain say Turkey is responsible. What do you want to prove and what will happen next? Do you mean to force us to do something? There is a reasonable question in Turkey: "What does Armenia want from us: compensation or lands?"
RK: Armenia will not present any legal claim after Turkey admits having committed genocide.
MAB: Do you mean to say that if Turkey admits genocide Armenia will not present territorial claims or demand compensation?
RK: Armenia has no legal grounds for that. Neither I nor Armenia has similar claims. Genocide recognition will never lead up to the issue of lands. I am surprised that Turkish men of law cannot explain it to the Turkish government. If this legal provision is realized–Turkey will look at the problem more calmly.
MAB: Turkey does not trust you–nor do you trust Turkey. There is a corresponding point in your Constitution. Dashnaktsutiun enjoys a legal status in Armenia. You say you have no claims. Suppose–we admit genocide. Tomorrow Mocharian will succeed Kocharian. Isn’t it possible that he’ll say: "I did not tell you I had no claims. It was Kocharian who said it. You admitted genocide–and so pay compensation and give our lands back".
RK: Similar problems are regulated by international law. You are right–it is possible that there will follow claims from relevant sides. But I think that after Turkey admits genocide–Armenia will not set forth any legal claim before Turkey. It is another question that it is possible that descendants of genocide victims will bring the matter to court. They can do it today as well. It has nothing to do with genocide recognition. If a Diasporan Armenian applies to court and can provide evidence that during those years he had money in a bank account–he will be regarded as a legal successor. Suppose–a similar lawsuit is filed with a Turkish court. Those wishing can do it right now as well. If the Turkish court rejects the lawsuit–he may turn to European instances. It is not conditional on whether Turkey admits genocide or not. In my mind–Turkey does not fully realize the consequences of genocide recognition. In my view–in this and similar issues it is enough for Turkey to unveil archives and offer an apology. You don’t have to call it "genocide". But it must be acknowledged that there were mass killings and deportations–and that today’s Diaspora is the consequence of 1915. By taking such simple steps you will drastically solve the question and the future of our relations will be changed.
MAB: You say there will be no territorial claims or deman’s for compensation if Turkey admits genocide. Is it your position that Turkey should open archives and offer an apology?
RK: Yes–it is. It is our only goal. It is a matter of morality and–most importantly–it is a matter of honor.