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Armenian National Assembly in Yerevan
Armenian National Assembly in Yerevan. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

At the end of 2007, the Armenian Parliament's Standing Committee on Foreign Relations held a series of hearings on Armenian-Turkish relations.

The Committee, chaired since 2003 by ARF representative Armen Rustamian, invited representatives from the government, the NGO sector, civil society, and international organizations to the hearing.[34] Representatives from Turkey had been invited but did not attend.

One of the issues which weighed heavily on the minds of the Armenian participants was the proposal, made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of a historians' commission to study the events of 1915.

Vardan Oskanian, then Armenia's Foreign Minister, rejected Erdogan's initiative.

"How can we take Erdogan's letter seriously when an article of his country's Criminal Code [art. 301] anticipates criminal punishment not only for those who dare utter the word genocide, but even for those who discuss the events of 1915? … And lastly, that letter could not have been received seriously because, after all, conditions are not normal; there is no atmosphere for discussing such an important issue; the borders are closed, there are no diplomatic relations. Despite all this, the President of the Republic of Armenia did reply to the letter … They are distorting the truth by saying that they got no answer from Armenia to their suggestion."[35]

Some of the other speakers, like ARF member and Deputy Speaker Vahan Hovhannisian and Ara Papian, a former diplomat, made strong arguments regarding the illegality of the Kars Treaty of 1921. As Hovhannnisian said:

"It is time to assert publicly that Turkey committed two crimes against the Armenians and we should separate them from one another. First of all, Turkey committed genocide, which lasted for decades, as the Armenians were being annihilated since the end of the 19th century; 1915 was merely the culmination. … But then there's what happened in 1921, when the recognized Republic of Armenia with its western border, which included Kars, Ardahan, Igdir, Surmalu and Ughtis, was subjected to aggression by the Bolsheviks and the Kemalists and carved up [by Turkey and the Soviet Union], just as in the Molotov-Ribbentrop act. That was an aggression against the Republic of Armenia, and this should not be connected with the genocide."[36]

Ultimately, added Hovhannnisian, "the internal changes in Turkish society are the only route through which we may find some beneficial solution" to Armenian-Turkish relations.

Armen Ayvazian, director of Ararat Centre, criticised successive Armenian governments for not being assertive enough in claiming territory from Turkey and for failing to understand that Armenia's very survival was under threat.

"The Armenian Question is a question of the Armenian people's security. As such, it requires […]: first, the creation of strong and complete Armenian statehood; and second, territorial guarantees for the security and functionality of statehood. […] The Armenian state is not able to survive on the 29.800 sq. kilometres of the former Soviet Republic of Armenia, with its extremely vulnerable, unprotected, aggression-inviting borders; nor is it possible for the Armenian people to exist in general in the absence of an Armenian state. The solution of the Armenian Question, therefore, is not the international recognition of the Armenian genocide, as many misperceive and as the Armenians' false friends claim. The Armenian Question is first of all a territorial question."[37]

Historian Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Genocide Museum-Institute, joined Vardan Oskanian in voicing his opposition to the Turkish proposal of a historians' commission.

"History was written by historians a long time ago, not only by Armenian, but also by Turkish historians; it's now time to leave it to the lawyers, because the issue of Armenian-Turkish relations should be resolved on the legal and political levels."[38]

Shavarsh Kocharian (currently the Deputy Foreign Minister) called on the participants to acknowledge and understand the situation inside Turkey.

"Today there are two opinions about Turkey. One is that it is still the Turkey of the Ottoman Empire a perpetual threat to Armenia and that we need to be on our guard against it […]. The proponents of the second approach say that we should reconcile with the past, live in the present, and establish relations with Turkey. […] I am not claiming that Turkey has changed so much that it is a completely different state, but we need not take extreme positions. Deep changes have taken place in Turkey […]. There is an internal debate in Turkey, a group of intellectuals are talking about the genocide out-loud […]. In relations with Turkey we are on the losing side, but we are ready to open relations without preconditions and this is a dignified approach, which should be advanced further."[39]


[34] The ARF quit the coalition government in April 2009 in protest against Armenia's policy vis-à-vis Turkey, but retained its chairmanship of Parliamentary committees.

[35] Speech by Vardan Oskanian, Foreign Affairs Minister of Armenia, December 19, 2007, National Assembly of Armenia, Hearings on the Armenian-Turkish relations, December 19, 2007, Speech available at Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, and the National Assembly Website.

[36] Vahan Hovhannisyan, Member of ARF Bureau, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia, December 19, 2007, National Assembly of Armenia, Hearings on the Armenian-Turkish relations, December 19, 2007

[37] Armen Ayvazyan, Ararat Center, "The Foreign Policy of the Republic of Armenia", National Assembly of Armenia, Hearings on the Armenian-Turkish relations, December 20, 2007, Azg Daily, 22 December, 2007

[38] Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Genocide Memorial-Institute, December 19, 2007, National Assembly of Armenia, Hearings on the Armenian-Turkish relations, December 19, 2007

[39] Shavarsh Kocharyan, National Popular Party, National Assembly of Armenia, Hearings on the Armenian-Turkish relations, December 20, 2007

August 2009

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