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What Did Kocharian Actually Say About Demanding Territories from Turkey?

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  • What Did Kocharian Actually Say About Demanding Territories from Turkey?

    What Did Kocharian Actually Say About
    Demanding Territories from Turkey?

    By Harut Sassounian
    Publisher, The California Courier

    Three months ago, Pres. Kocharian made a rare appearance in front of
    students at Yerevan State University. After his official remarks dealing
    with the state of affairs in Armenia, the President responded at length to
    more than 20 questions from the students.
    The President's answer to one particular question made headlines both in
    Armenia and Turkey. It dealt with the possibility of Armenia demanding
    territories from Turkey following its recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
    This is a very sensitive issue that has serious repercussions not only on
    Turkish-Armenian relations, but also on the efforts of third parties trying
    to nudge Turkey into recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
    The question of whether the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the
    Turks may lead to Armenian territorial demands from Turkey is discussed
    widely not only in Ankara, Washington and Paris, but also among Armenians
    Some Armenians say that they would be satisfied if the Turks simply
    admitted that genocide was committed against the Armenians. In other words,
    if the Turks stopped denying the Genocide, Armenians and Turks could then
    turn a new page in their relationship.
    Most Armenians, however, maintain that Turkey's admission of the occurrence
    of the Genocide is not sufficient at all. That would not wipe away the
    cataclysmic consequences of the murders committed against the Armenian
    nation. They believe that today's Turkish government has the responsibility
    of making amends for the losses suffered by the Armenians. They contend
    that Turkey must return the confiscated properties and assets to the
    descendants of the victims of the Genocide, give back the historic Armenian
    territories, and finally, pay financial compensation for the murder of 1.5
    million Armenians.
    Those who would be satisfied by the mere recognition of the genocide often
    lecture other Armenians about the realities of the modern world and the
    fact that it would be unrealistic to expect Turkey to return any
    territories or pay compensation to Armenians. They also question if
    Armenians demanding the lands would be willing to relocate to Western
    Armenia (Eastern Turkey), should the Turks agree to return these mostly
    desolate lands.
    Those who make such minimalist demands do not understand that while it is
    highly unlikely that the Turks would make amends for the Genocide anytime
    soon, voluntarily giving up one's historic rights would ensure that
    Armenians would end up getting nothing.
    Pres. Kocharian understands well the sensitivity of this issue ever since
    he got himself into hot water several years ago when he responded to a
    similar question from a prominent Turkish reporter. At that time, the
    President was severely criticized by Armenians from around the world for
    having supposedly said, according to the distorted transcript of the
    Turkish reporter, that Armenia had no territorial demands from Turkey. The
    problem was compounded by the fact that despite the uproar about the
    President's alleged statement, his aides never bothered to release to the
    public his actual words. They let the Turks misrepresent to the world and
    to Armenians worldwide what Pres. Kocharian had actually said.
    A similar misrepresentation of the President's words occurred earlier this
    year. Once again, Pres. Kocharian's statement was distorted by the Turkish
    media. Here is what the President actually said as it was broadcast on
    Armenian State TV, on April 11, 2005. I have translated his words from
    Armenian into English:
    "We have never raised in the name of any governmental body the issue of any
    territorial demands. We have today on our foreign policy agenda the issue
    of the recognition of the Genocide. What legal consequences that would
    have, is an issue for future presidents and future political officials. But
    we must also be realistic, and from that perspective, our expectations and
    reality should not be too different. When they become too different, one
    can get subsequently disillusioned. The more realistic we are, the less the
    probability of subsequent disillusionment. We should now consistently
    struggle for the recognition of the Genocide. Regarding the second segment
    of that issue, the less we talk about it now, the better for us."
    The Turkish press distorted the President's statement by reporting him
    saying that Armenia had no demands from Turkey. Regrettably, Armenian
    newspapers both in Armenia and the Diaspora reported these Turkish
    distortions as facts.
    Readers should note that Pres. Kocharian was careful to avoid acknowledging
    that Armenia had territorial demands from Turkey, while just as carefully
    refusing to state that Armenia did not have such claims. Given Armenia's
    many current political and economic problems, clearly this is not the right
    time to make territorial claims from a powerful and hostile neighboring
    state. Pres. Kocharian is correct in neither asserting such demands nor in
    giving them up.
    Armenians have to wait until such time when Armenia is strong enough to act
    on those demands. As everyone knows, territories are not freely given. They
    can only be taken by force or diplomacy backed by strength. The time for
    that is definitely not now!
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