WASHINGTON (Armenian Weekly)—On November 16, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) hosted an event on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Woodrow Wilson Arbitral Award, at the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington.
The event featured two speakers. Ara Papian, the head of the Modus Vivendi Research Center, who has served as ambassador of Armenia to Canada and as spokesperson for the Armenian Foreign Ministry, and Dikran Kaligian, who has taught history at Clark University, and Regis, Westfield State, and Wheaton colleges, and is the managing editor of the Armenian Review.
Following a cocktail hour, accompanied by Arpa Vartanian on the piano, the executive director of the ANCA, Aram Hamparian, introduced the guests. Among them were representatives of the Embassy of Armenia, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Marshal Evans, as well as Virginia State Senator Patsy Ticer, Donald Wilson Bush, a member of the Wilson family and founder of the Woodrow Wilson Legacy Foundation, as well as representatives from the community and various offices and organizations, including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Armenian Relief Society, and Hamazkayin and the Armenian Youth Federation.
His Eminence, Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern United States, offered his prayers. “President Wilson holds a special place in the history of the Armenian people… He was our voice when we were unable to speak. And now we are proud to be his voice in promoting his ideals of freedom, justice, peace, and democracy. We are especially mindful and thankful for the unprecedented American assistance that rescued the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, many of whom were later welcomed in the United States of America,” said Choloyan.
About 90 years ago, on Nov. 22, 1920, at the request of the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers, President Wilson issued an Arbitral Award, under the Presidential Seal, to establish a Turkey-Armenia boundary pursuant to the Treaty of Sevres. Through this legal document, Armenia was granted the provinces of Van, Bitlis, Erzurum, and Trabzon.
A historian and diplomat, Papian spoke about the legal and historical background of the Arbitral Award. “It can be declared confidently, the Arbitral Award of Woodrow Wilson is still valid and legally obligatory document, because the indispensable feature of an Arbitral Award is that it produces an award that is final and binding. By agreeing to submit the dispute to arbitration, i.e. signing a compromise, the parties, in advance, agree to accept the decision… It is obligatory, also, for the United States, not only by virtue of the fact that the arbitrator was the United States President, but primarily because it was sealed in the great seal of the United States, thus it became part of the land of this country.”
Turkish presence over there is nothing more than an administrative control like the Turkish status over northern Cyprus,” said Papian. “Thus the presence and all acts taken by the Turkish Republic in Wilsonian Armenia are illegal and invalid because the belligerent occupation does not yield lawful rule over a territory.”
The Arbitral Award, which is titled “Decision of the President of the United States of America respecting the Frontier between Turkey and Armenia, Access for Armenia to the Sea, and the Demilitarization of Turkish Territory adjacent to the Armenian Frontier,” was never revoked or altered. According to Papian, it remains in force under U.S. and international law.
Kaligian, who is the author of Armenian Organization and Ideology under Ottoman Rule, 1908-1914, spoke about the history of President Wilson and the Arbitral Award, and of its contemporary significance.
“Woodrow Wilson, when he wrote to the Allied Powers, in March of 1920…stated, ‘The government of the United States is convinced that the civilized world demands Armenia’s boundaries should be drawn in such a way as to recognize all the legitimate claims of the Armenian people, and particularly to give them easy and unencumbered access to the sea,’” said Kaligian. “So the issue of boundaries, the issue of doing right, the issue of justice for the Armenian people was a key part of these peace negotiations… When President Wilson made his Arbitral Award, he was in essence awarding Armenia reparations for its losses in lives, and properties, and lands. Reparations and return of lands were an integral part of what Woodrow Wilson recognized as a civilized world’s obligation to Armenia—an integral part of justice for the great crime against humanity…”
Kaligian concluded his remarks with these impassioned words: “It is only justice when [the Armenian people] receive their lost properties, and farms, and businesses, and wealth, because the Turkish Republic was built on Armenian blood, and Armenian sweat, and Armenian labor. We will only live up to President Woodrow Wilson’s ideals when Turkey is no longer able to profit from the atrocities of Turkish governments. We will only realize President Wilson’s vision when Armenia is restored to what it once was—a home that can house all the Armenian people—with defensible borders, and the ability to feed itself, and the ability to thrive. We will only fulfill Woodrow Wilson’s legacy when Armenia is not just free, is not just independent, but is also united. Hayasdan miyatsyal azad yev angakh [Armenia, united free and independent].”
ANCA chairman Ken Hachikian offered closing remarks. “Real peace can only be built upon justice. And it is a very simple concept, but one which world leaders frequently forget. Frequently there is a drive for peace, and ultimately one asks the question, ‘peace at what cost’? Ultimately unless peace comes with justice, unless the foundation of that peace is based upon fairness, on the principles of justice, on reparations, appropriate compensation to the victims, then there ultimately cannot be peace,” he said.