YEREVAN –In an interview with the Al Jazeera News Network conducted on Feb. 12, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said he “absolutely” wants President Barack Obama to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Answering a question about Obama’s campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, Sarkisian said Obama had followed up on his pledge but “not to the extent he had promised before he became the president. But he stated unequivocally that he hasn’t changed his mind.” Responding to a follow-up question on whether Sarkisian wants Obama to use the word “genocide” in reference to 1915, Sarkisian said, “Absolutely.”
Speaking about the protocols, Sarkisian said it is the Turkish side that is stalling the process, noting that “as the leader of the political force which currently holds parliamentary majority, I rule out any possibility of the Armenian Parliament not ratifying the protocols if they are ratified by the Turks without preconditions.”
During the interview, Sarkisian reiterated that Russia and Armenia are “strategic partners” and that the Armenian American community serves as a bridge for good relations with the U.S.
Below is the full text of the interview.
Mr. President, the Turkish side claims that the Armenian side protracts the process. What are the next steps after the protocols have been ratified by the parliaments of both countries? What kind of, so to speak, “happy ending” would you like to see for this process?
At the moment, the protocols are at the Presidential Office, and as soon as I am back to Yerevan, I will submit them to the National Assembly to start the process of ratification. We are surprised, as actually everybody else is, that the Turks think or claim that we are dragging our feet on the process of ratification. On the contrary, it is quite obvious that the Turkish side is protracting the process.
The Turkish side is protracting the process?
Yes, undoubtedly, because we have stated many times—and the last time it was yesterday—when I said that as the leader of the political force which currently holds parliamentary majority, I rule out any possibility of the Armenian Parliament not ratifying the protocols if they are ratified by the Turks without preconditions.
Mr. President, what is next? After the protocols have been ratified by the Armenian and Turkish sides, what is the next step to bring the entire process to its conclusion and normalize relations between the two countries?
After the ratification of the protocols and their entry into force, the border must be opened. After that an intergovernmental commission will be established along with its sub-commissions, and we will start the dialogue. Thus, by ratifying the protocols we are not concluding the process but rather we are launching a process.
Actually, for you the ratification or opening of the border are important for the purposes of trade as well as for obtaining an outlet to the outer world. Do you think that the border opening is important for other countries too, for instance for Russia or the United States?
I believe, yes. That’s the reason why the U.S., Russia, and the European Union support this process. It is not only about opening the border, it is about establishing relations.
Are you going to deepen your relations with the United States and Russia, since you are between these two “worlds”?
Yes, we have very good relations with the Russian Federation. We are strategic partners. We both are present in many structures, and our relations continue to deepen. We also have good relations with the United States. The U.S. is home to many Armenians who serve as a natural bridge in our relations with America. The best situation for us is when the U.S. and Russia maintain good relations.
As you rightly mentioned, many Armenians live in the U.S. as well as all over the world. Many Armenians have left Armenia, and today they are supporting their families from abroad. Do you think of bringing them back to Armenia, somehow?
Certainly, and not only those Armenians who are supporting their families and the Armenian economy, who left Armenia after independence, but also those Armenians who were spread all over the world in the wake of the Armenian Genocide. Armenians help and assist us from every corner of the world. In our estimate, today there are over 10 million Armenians in the world, and only 3 million are residing in the Republic of Armenia. We would be happy if the other 7 million come back to Armenia. We, of course, understand that it is hardly to happen. However, we want every Armenian born in Armenia to come back.
What would you say of a president of the United States who says, “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that president”? Barack Obama said that. Is he responding? Is he the kind of president that will?
Yes, he did respond. Of course not to the extent he had promised before he became the president. But he stated unequivocally that he hasn’t changed his mind.
Does it mean, you continue to anticipate his assistance?
Well, if you mean that to articulate the word “genocide” or to speak about genocide is assistance, then it can be put that way, yes. I believe that it means to accept the truth, to speak the truth.
Do you want him to say that word?