Raffi K. Hovannisian
200 9/07/31 | 22:48


Yerevan, July 31-It is often easier to fight for one's principles than
to live up to them. In another time but at the same place, presidential
contender Adlai Stevenson was setting the scene generations later
for President Obama and his administration.

As unfair as it is to be held up as everyone's lighthouse of liberty
and justice, Barack Obama was elected president on his self-projection
as that very beacon. He and his world-power colleagues, for both
principle and posterity, must not allow themselves the comfort,
however transient, to play feel-good god in mockery of historical
tragedy and in defiance of contemporary imperatives to right the
wrongs of the past.

Earlier this month, G8 leaders Obama, Sarkozy, and Medvedev issued
a joint declaration softly pre-imposing a superpower solution on
Armenia and the freedom-loving people of Artsakh, otherwise known
as Mountainous Karabagh. Years before recognition of Kosovo and
Abkhazia became current fashion and counter-fashion, Karabagh
was the first autonomous territory of the old USSR to challenge
Stalin's divide-and-conquer legacy and to raise the standard of
decolonization and liberation from its Soviet Azerbaijani yoke by
means of a constitutional referendum on independence in December 1991.

Azerbaijan responded to this legitimate quest for self-determination
with a failed war of aggression, resulting as it did in tens of
thousands of casualties, more than a million refugees, countless
lost birthrights, collaterally damaged cultural heritage, and a new
strategic balance on both sides of the bitter divide, and so sued
for ceasefire in May 1994.

Barack and company now wish for the Armenians, having suffered both an
unrequited genocide and the greatest ever of national dispossessions
at the hands of Ottoman Turkey nearly a century ago, to cede even more
of their ancestral patrimony and their newly-achieved sovereignty
by calling on them to withdraw unilaterally from "occupied" areas
belonging to the Republic of Mountainous Karabagh in exchange for
some foggy-bottomed diplomatic formulation about a future plebiscite.

Armenia says no, thank you.

If President Barack Obama and his distinguished new-age colleagues
want to demonstrate that the conscience of humanity has survived
the second millennium, that equity can still obtain in international
affairs, and that an even and comprehensive application of the law,
not self-serving parochial politics, rules this century, then they
might wake up to a new mirror and proclaim the following.

Should Mountainous Karabagh or any of its constituent parts be
considered by anybody as occupied, then clearly the historical Armenian
heartlands of Shahumian, Getashen, Gardmank, and Nakhichevan must
immediately be acknowledged to be under Azerbaijani occupation. Worse
yet, official Baku is demolishing, with malice aforethought, the
last vestiges of Armenian Christian heritage in its jurisdiction,
the most recent documented crime of dastardly proportions having taken
place in December 2005 upon the no-longer-existent medieval chapels,
cross-stones, and divine offerings at Jugha, Nakhichevan. Had
the perpetrator been the Taliban-or the victim a sacred Semitic
cemetery-America, Europe, Russia, and all of world civilization would
have been rightfully outraged and demanded remedial action forthwith.

If the rule of law is not a hoax or a decoy or an instrument
of whim and duress, then the Mighty Three must together-and
simultaneously-recognize Kosovo, Abkhazia, and Mountainous Karabagh
as independent states fitting the definitional requirements of the
Montevideo Convention. All must be recognized by all, or else none
by none. The sui generis argument is distinction without difference.

The government of republican Turkey-the successor regime bearing the
rights and obligations of its genocidal predecessor-can no longer play
dog-and-tail tag with the United States, the European Union, and the
Russian Federation. Ankara's normally astute diplomacy has forgone
the 18-year opportunity since Armenia's declaration of sovereignty to
establish official relations with it without the positing by either
side of any political preconditions. It has, most unfortunately, done
so from the very beginning first by presenting preconditions of its
own (including those turning on Karabagh and "occupied" territories),
then holding Armenia in an unlawful blockade tantamount to an act of
war, and finally speaking the language of blackmail and double-down
intrigue with Washington, Brussels, and Moscow.

Of course, the trinity of power all have talked the walk pursuant to
their own petty interests of the day. President Obama's double-speak
on genocide and its shameful denial, at Ankara in April followed by
Buchenwald* in June, is a classic in point. But if Obama and friends
are serious about the new global order, then they might find the
fortitude to remind Turkey, as key partner and good neighbor, that it
stands in occupation of the ancient Armenian homeland and owes a debt
of atonement and redemption to the Armenian nation. And no crowning
Bolshevik-Kemalist compact from 1921, a full generation before
Molotov-Ribbentrop, can serve to rationalize the great genocide,
nor purport to regulate the relations and frontiers between the
modern Republics of Turkey and Armenia. That is their sovereign duty
mutually to resolve, but if anyone in Washington or elsewhere requires
guidance on crimes against humanity, ways and means of restitution, and
definitions of occupation, "the memory hole" of expedient forgetting
can be duly overcome in the US National Archives, its records on the
Armenian genocide, and most poignantly the provisions of President
Woodrow Wilson's arbitral award, issued under his seal in November
1920 and legally controlling to this day, to Armenia and its people.

Now, who was taking that pledge to liberty and justice for all? It
was us, and Obama: "We must be ever-vigilant about the spread of evil
in our own time, that we must reject the false comfort that others'
suffering is not our problem, and commit ourselves to resisting those
who would subjugate others to serve their own interests."*

Raffi K. Hovannisian was independent Armenia's first minister of
foreign affairs.