PARIS—The circumstances that led to the Armenian Genocide, as well as President Woodrow Wilson’s famous “14 Points” that have served as a blueprint for among other things the establishment of the United Nations, as well as Wilson’s vision of an independent Armenia, were highlighted by Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Sunday in a speech he delivered at the Paris Peace Conference that took place following an event marking the centennial of the World War I Armistice.
Pashinyan lamented that although the crimes against Armenians were condemned and later those crimes will be called the first genocide of the 20th century, lessons from the Armenian Genocide were not taken by the international community, thus resulting in the Holocaust, the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides.
“It was during World War One that the Allied powers, for the first time ever, used the definition ‘crimes against humanity and civilization,’ thus condemning the Ottoman rulers for the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. Later, this horrendous crime was to be termed the first genocide of the 20th century,” said Pashinyan.
“Nevertheless, only few decades later mankind went through the Holocaust, the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, the genocides of the Christians and Yezidis in the Middle East, the violence against the Rohingya people,” added Pashinyan.
Armenia’s acting prime minister also pointed to Wilson’s 14 Points to draw attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination—a concept highlighted by the U.S. president as an inalienable right of all people.
“The decades-long struggle of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to determine their destiny has not received its proper legal solution. In the 21th century it is absolutely unacceptable that people’s mere desire to exercise its right to self-determination may turn into an existential menace,” said Pashinyan.
Pashinyan had joined leaders from around the world to commemorate the end of World War I when on November 11, 1918 an agreement was signed putting an end to all combat operations in the War. This document served as a precursor for the Versailles Treaty and the Paris Peace Conference, both of which took place in 1919, with representatives of the then newly-independent Republic of Armenia taking part.
Among the leaders at the commemoration and the conference were President Donald Trump, President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Turkey.
The Conference was opened by introductory remarks made by Paris Peace Conference Executive Committee Vice President Trisha Shetty and French President Emmanuel Macron, followed by speeches delivered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
After the speech Pashinyan presented an illustrated book by historian Hayk Demoyan entitled “The Armenian Genocide: Front Page Coverage in the World Media” to be included in the Peace Library as Armenia’s contribution.
Pashinyan and his wife, Anna Hakopyan arrived in Paris on Sunday and were greeted by Macron and the French first lady, Brigitte. They then participated in the Armistice Centennial Ceremony joining other world leaders.
Below is the text of Pashinyan’s remarks provided by his press service.
Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have gathered here to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. This is an event of exceptional significance called to pay tribute to collective memory and to articulate our common message of peace.
Today, we, as the leaders of the nations, which participated in that war, should first of all speak about the lessons learnt from the tragedy of World War One.
When a state wages a war or is tempted to solve problems by military means, it believes in its own strength and victory. Yet, World War One became a global tragedy for all the peoples engaged and resulted in the destruction of its mastermind states.
There is a belief, that from the geopolitical and military perspective there are always winners and losers in wars. However, from the human perspective, no one ever wins. Wars bring only loss, misery and devastation.
And regardless of our common efforts and appeals to learn from the previous mistakes, these lessons are easily forgotten.
Even though one hundred years ago, the humanity realized the need to ban weapon of mass destruction, regrettably it has not prevented the creation of new generations of arms.
It was during World War One that the Allied powers, for the first time ever, used the definition “crimes against humanity and civilization,” thus condemning the Ottoman rulers for the extermination of 1,5 million Armenians. Later, this horrendous crime was to be termed the first genocide of the 20th century.
Nevertheless, only few decades later mankind went through the Holocaust, the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, the genocides of the Christians and Yezidis in the Middle East, the violence against the Rohingya people.
As part of the lessons, learnt from the war the right of the peoples to self-determination was set out in Wilson’s 14 points. Later on it was included in the UN Charter, Helsinki Final Act, and became a basis for the independence of around half of the modern states.
As a result of World War One, the people of the world legally established the right to master their own destiny through the expression of free will. Here, in France I cannot but stress that just days ago, France has clearly reiterated its principled position on this issue: the people of New Caledonia were given the opportunity to conduct a referendum. Painfully, this right is being exercised selectively.
This is why, the decades-long struggle of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to determine their destiny has not received its proper legal solution. In the 21th century it is absolutely unacceptable that people’s mere desire to exercise its right to self-determination may turn into an existential menace.
As a result of World War One the world established the League of Nations, the prototype for the United Nations, with the ultimate goal of achieving peace.
Nonetheless, the manifestations of extremism in the contemporary world are on the rise. We established those institutions first and foremost to protect human rights. Yet, today we are witnessing daily abuse of the most fundamental human right – the right to life.
After the end of the First World War, many believed that it would be the last ever war fought. However, the Second World War was not long in coming. The humankind entered into a new phase of war and arms race. Unfortunately, up to now we have been unable to put an end to it. Moreover, we get further involved in it every day.
This is why I attach high importance to such meetings. They provide us an opportunity to reflect on our past, on our common history of the humankind. Indeed, we are unable to change that history, and we do not need to. But the history is well able to change us to make our future better.
To this end, we need to learn the most important lesson of World War One. No state can build its success at the cost of others’ misery, no one can gain freedom at the cost of others’ slavery. We put an end to the First World War hundred years ago. And this is a perfect occasion to think of entering a century without wars – a century of peace.
I do believe, that the leaders that have gathered here, in Paris, are well able to achieve it. And this will be the best ever tribute to the innocent victims of the previous century.