YEREVAN (Yerkir)–"President Kocharian’s attitude toward the Armenian Genocide and deman’s arising from the Armenian Cause are reflected in his statemen’s made in Strasbourg and in the interview with French newspaper ‘Le Figaro’ as opposed to the interview with Turkish journalist Mehmed Ali Birand–where his words were put out of context," said Presidential Spokesman Vahe Gabrielian in response to a question on how to interpret the President’s viewpoints stated in the interview with the Turkish reporter. An exerpt of the interview with ‘Le Figaro’ from February 12th is printed on Page 10;
Le Figaro: Mr. President. The French parliament voted several days ago in favor of Armenian genocide bill. Do you think that voting is just a stage–which later must lead to similar voting in other parliamen’s?
Robert Kocharian: I think–yes.
LF: I was told that unlike you predecessor–you have declared international recognition of Armenian genocide as a priority of your foreign policy. Is it really so?
RK: I would like to formulate this question differently. This issue was just not dealt with in the past. Yes–I think that it has its place in Armenia’s foreign policy–but I cannot say that Armenia’s entire foreign policy should be directed at international recognition of the Armenia genocide. The major portion of work is carried out by Armenia Diaspora–who are the people–or heirs of those–who had to flee to different countries as a result of Genocide. Armenia also tried to shape its determined position over this issue in various international structures. I think–the determined formulation of the issue has to some extent–promoted Armenian Diaspora organizations’ activities. But I repeat again that the initiative belongs not to the Armenian state–but to the Diaspora.
LF: Mr. President–sometimes there is an impression that Armenia–which is located between Turkey and Azerbaijan–is fighting for international recognition of the genocide bowing to Diaspora’s efforts–requests or deman’s. A Diaspora–many members of which do not have a clear picture of Armenia’s current situation.
RK: No–it is not like that. We do not think that Genocide recognition is only the Diaspora’s matter. I think–that Armenia–as a state–must formulate its position on that issue. We think that it is not only the matter of Armenia’s only but of the whole civilized world–proceeding from the UN various formulas. The Armenian genocide was the first in the 20th century and I think that the international community should have given its assessment to it still 85 years ago. I should also say that the archives of France–US–Germany and other countries had rich documen’s proving it. The question is not whether there was or not the genocide but that it must be evaluated.
LF: The French government used to say at one moment that the genocide issue should be left to historians. Was not it possible to stop there and say that it really must be evaluated by historians?
RK: It is my personal opinion that it is not the matter of historians. The international community never had any doubts whether it occurred or not–otherwise it would not be possible to explain the existence of huge Armenian Diaspora. The word is about different states’ attitude towards the Armenian Genocide–while leaving this issue to historians would means to put it under question. I was in Holocaust Museums in USA and Israel. In Washington’s Museum there is a conspicuous citation from Hitler who said" exterminate the Jews–who remembers today the extermination of Armenia’s."
LF: Mr. President–Turks say that if the Armenian genocide is recognized by different countries it may lead to two outcome. First–the Armenian state might say that Turks killed Armenia’s in Diarbakir–Kars and other places and consequently these places belong to Armenia’s–that is Armenia may have territorial claims to Turkey–and that the heir of genocide victims may raise the issue of compensations.
RK: To the best of my knowledge–Turks do not reject that such events indeed took place. The word is about how to qualify them. Of course–different figures are brought concerning the number of killed Armenia’s. For example–the Turkish official figures say that a little more than 300,000 Armenia’s were killed–according to Armenian estimates–the number of victims was 1,5 million. Turks say–yes–killings really took place–but they cannot be qualified as genocide. But even if we base on their figures–do the heirs of genocide victims have the right to claim compensation? If we try to base on European law–for example if a human being had a bank account and can prove it today–will he have the right to demand his money or not? This is also a human right issue. Jews do not want territories from Germany but they demand compensations for their damages. As to the second part of your question–I do not think that the recognition of Armenian genocide may create legal bases for territorial claims on behalf of Armenia.
LF: Armenia is the only regional country that has close ties with Russia. I know that there are many historical reasons for this–but Russia’s military presence is big and it seems to grow further. It is said that this presence is a factor for Armenia’s to feel more secure against Turkish threats.
RK: There is truth in it. Russian military presence is conditioned by Armenian-Turkish relations. But I would like to draw your attention to this issue in a broader context. All the three Caucasian states are rather small and cannot be compared in terms of their resources. There was a kind of military and security balance in the region regardless of the fact whether it was a good or bad one. After the USSR collapse a new situation emerged and I do not think that the three states were able to oppose the activation of more stronger states in the region. Especially Turkey’s activation–given that all the three states had to overcome transitional problems. Naturally we had to solve these concerns with the help of Russia bearing in mind our traditional friendly relations.