Saturday 24 April 2010

The awe and sensation felt by every citizen of the world, when they
touch even for a moment upon the history of the Armenian Genocide,
cannot be a figure of speech. On the contrary, it is the spontaneous
reaction of anyone with even just a little compassion, when facing
the horror and terror caused by the images alone of one of the worst
crimes in world history.

Personally, it is with humility and respect that I stand before you
today and I very warmly thank you for this honorary invitation.

Because, if for every conscious citizen of the world this day is
an anniversary of bringing out and re-stating the universal values
and rights, if it is for the world a day describing in the worst way
behaviours and actions that no people and no person are to experience
again, for you Armenians this day is a day of pain. A day to bring
back to memory the parents, grandparents, beloved persons, leaders
and spiritual mentors.

A day of remembrance of hundreds of thousands of your ancestors
who left their lives in the deserts and the concentration camps,
overwhelmed by hunger, torture, the inhuman and horrendous treatment
they suffered within the context of a plan aiming at annihilating an
entire people. Our mind cannot grasp how people can let other people
die out on the ground from exhaustion and hardship. To murder them
in cold blood and put them in the mass through the most terrible
tortures. And yet it was done. It was done at the expense of the
Armenians and the Greeks, as it was later also done against the Jews...

95 years are completed today from the day the Union and Progress Party
of the Young Turks arrested, imprisoned and then executed over 250
Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. The
24th of April went down in history to mark the beginning of the mass
slaughter of Armenians. A genocide that would last for at least 3
years, starting with uprooting, requisition of property, deportation,
marching and eventually death for the sad large majority. The numerous
testimonies of survivors, foreign observers, and a multitude of
distinguished historians of the era as well as of today, prove beyond
any doubt how systematic and organised this crime was. The depravity,
that after all took place before the eyes and with the contribution
of the Ottoman army.

For someone to convey what the 1915-1918 Genocide really means for
an Armenian is not simply difficult. It is impossible. Even for a
Greek-Cypriot who has experiences related to yours, and also has
the knowledge and familiarity experience with the remarkable for its
survival Armenian community.

After all, you know well that we feel and understand the pain of
national destruction and displacement. That with you, dear friends,
we gaze everyday at Pentadhaktylos, as you gaze at Mount Ararat.

And with you, wherever possible, we struggle for the recognition
of the Armenian tragedy by its perpetrators. We battle to stop the
duality of this crime and its continuous perpetration through the lack
of willingness of Turkey to accept the undeniable historical reality.

A reality that screams of knowledge from the international community
and the articles of the time. The threats of the Allies to the Ottoman
Empire, which they considered guilty of these crimes against humanity
and the testimonies of a multitude of diplomats. The initial arrests
and the plans discussed in Paris in 1918 for the first International
War Crimes' tribunal, but were not materialised.

Unfortunately, the United States' hesitations, the priority of the
British for the fate of their own prisoners, the rise of Mustafa
Kemal and other circumstances have led us from Article 230 of the
Treaty of Sevres, which obliged Turkey to hand over those responsible
for the massacre to international courts, to the Treaty of Lausanne,
which essentially retracted this obligation. And the result was the
massacre to go unpunished and the Armenians be uprooted, a crime
that the American President Theodore Roosevelt aptly described as
the greatest crime of World War I.

Many scholars have demonstrated the role the history of the Armenian
Genocide played in the plans of the Nazis and Hitler, in relation to
the Jewish Holocaust. And the role the impunity of the first crime
played for the perpetration of the second one.

Today, the Armenian people, surrounded by countless academics,
politicians and ordinary citizens coming from all corners of the earth,
are struggling for recognition. Something which already has results,
as the Genocide is recognised by the broader academic world and more
than 20 countries. The recent Swedish Parliament resolutions, and
the adopted U.S. Congress resolution last March, add significantly
more to the above.

The European Parliament had already made the pioneering decision to
recognise the Genocide in 1987, whereas explicit reference to the
Genocide was also made in the related to Turkey resolutions of the
Body in 2004 and 2006. Let me feel personally proud for the active
role I had in these resolutions.

The main issue, however, is not the recognition by third countries.

The essential goal is the acknowledgement and apology of the heirs
of the Ottoman Empire, namely the present Turkish state. And only
this development can lead to the atonement that the Armenian people
rightfully deserve.

The accession process of Turkey to the European Union and the
negotiations that began in October 2005, are perhaps the greatest
historical opportunity for achieving the goal of recognising Genocide.

It is a fact that the recognition of genocide does not constitute
an official legal term for the accession of Turkey. But, regardless
of the disappointment this causes, I am convinced that the Armenian
question can and should have the leading role it deserves in the
accession negotiations. It is in our hands, the Armenian community, the
European citizens, the political and religious leaders, to ensure it.

Besides, if Turkey wants and manages to complete its internal reforms
on matters of human rights, freedom of expression, rights of religious
minorities, minimising the role of the army, and others, the climate
will be more conducive for a possible introspection and reconciliation
with its historical past. Because only then will it have a chance
to obtain the required consent of the European Parliament, and the
European citizens in general.

Do not forget that the ratification of any final decision on Turkey
to join the Union goes not only through the 27 governments and the
European Parliament, but also through the 27 national parliaments. A
fact that gives the citizens of every country an additional pressure
lever to express their views on this important issue.

Our goal, dear friends, is not to keep this eternal animosity alive.

Whether as Greeks or as Armenians. But Turkey must show with its
actions it has the same goal too. Something which is not being done
until today.

It is indisputable that the solution of the national issues of
Cyprus, Greece and Armenia, will be greatly assisted, if in the
future the accession reformations of Turkey give birth to democratic,
Europeanised, modern and independent from the army state. A state
that fully respects human rights. This is the reason that Greece
and Cyprus are in favour of Turkey's accession course, provided it
strictly fulfils all criteria.

But I am sorry to say that the relative progress recorded by Turkey
is extremely limited and this according to all competent authorities
in the European Union. The problems in southeast Turkey with the
Kurds, the violation of women's rights, the non-recognition of
the Republic of Cyprus and the refusal to open its harbours and
airports, the violations of the Aegean, the trials against liberal
intellectuals and democrats and the degrading treatment of non-Muslim
religious minorities, are just some of the ugly realities. The shocking
revelations about the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer plans can only cause
anxiety and pessimism.

Turkey itself, instead of going ahead with radical changes and
reformations, confines itself to communication tricks, wanting to
appease the criticism it is subjected to. Its effective withdrawal
from the agreement with Armenia during last years' October for the
restoration of diplomatic relations and the opening of the borders,
and the new conditions it sets to impose this agreement, are but a
simple specimen of its dishonest intents.

Today, some defend Turkey, considering that we should pet her, due to
her strategic position between Europe and Asia, her large NATO army
and the usefulness it may provide as a mediator between the Christian
West and the Muslim world. These supporters of Turkey should be able
to foresee the bad service they provide to that country. Because it
is the uncontrolled and unpunished actions of Turkey and its reaction
to any kind of criticism that lead EU member states, such as Germany,
Austria and France, as well as the majority of European citizens,
to refuse to accept it as a full EU-member.

Dear friends, the desired transformation of Turkey will take years and
decades. And more importantly, it should come from within rather than
from the outside. When in 2005 the unjustly killed Hrant Dink came to
Strasbourg for one of the sessions of the European Parliament, he had
specifically told us that, as a Turkish Armenian, he was more content
to inform and convince a few Turkish citizens about the Genocide,
than to manage to make an entire third country to recognise it.

And everyone's hope is that, apart from the nationalistic circles who
have always denied the Genocide, the majority of the Turkish people
are not fanatical, but entirely ignorant of what exactly happened. The
difficulty will be enormous, because the revelation of the truth for
the tragedy of the Armenians is directly related to the refutation of
the founding myth of modern Turkey. But it is a necessary condition
for us to be able to speak of a real recognition and reconciliation.

Towards a way that the Franco-German reconciliation shows, which came
after two World Wars and millions dead. The combination of financial
and other interests, the gradual communication and reconciliation are
what gave birth to the European superpower we know today. A place of
peace, democracy and stability, who is also trying to extend these
values to its neighbouring countries.

The Neighbourhood Policy of the European Union for the countries of
the South Caucasus precisely aims at this special relationship. The
developments in South Caucasus are important for Europe, because its
future includes the path of search for peace, justice and prosperity
of peoples, throughout our region.

I make reference to future prospects, because they are not issues
independent from the drama of the Armenian people and the tragedy
it suffered during World War I. On the contrary, they are completely
related and connected. Because the re-construction and progress of the
independent state of Armenia, the thriving and active Diaspora whose
part you are, and the continuation of our common struggle for the
recognition of Genocide, are the grandest memorial service. They can
be the only possible justification and the most appropriate tribute
to the victims of the Armenian calamity.

To the martyrs of the Armenian people and the world, to whom we
humbly turn our thought today, we assure that we will do everything
in our hands to succeed in making their memory eternal, recognised
and justified.

Thank you.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress