09, 2009

President Serzh Sargsyan met with the Public Council in its enlarged format

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In the context of the public discussions pertinent to the current stage of the normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations, President Serzh Sargsyan met today with the Public Council in its enlarged format.

In his opening remarks the President of Armenia said, “I am glad to have this meeting with the enlarged membership of the Public Council which is represented here with its commissions and subcommissions. I hope that in the future, I will have an opportunity to meet with, if I’m not mistaken, more than 1700 members of the Council.
Frankly, when I was initiating the creation of such a structure in Armenia, I was envisioning something like what the Council is doing today – a structured mechanism for discussions, which allows to present the views of different strata of our society, where opinions may collide, where ideas are articulated and later everything is brought into a common field for synchronization.
The extent, intensity and organizational nature of the discussions regarding the current stage of the Armenian-Turkish relations has proven that the Public Council is becoming a viable institution and pretty fast too.
I am aware in general lines of what is going on in the commissions and subcommissions of the Public Council. The purpose of our today’s meeting is to sum up whatever has been done so far and to view the entire array of opinions present in our society.”
In his speech the Chairman of the Public Council Vazgen Manukian noted that the initialed Armenian-Turkish protocols were painstakingly discussed in each of the Council’s commissions and all the voiced viewpoints and concerns were scrupulously analyzed. As a result, the Council came up with a document which summarizes the position and the proposals of the Public Council. By this document the Public Council endorses the ratification of the initialed Armenian-Turkish protocols, at the same time pointing to a number of issues that raise concern.
During the engaged and frank discussions, which lasted for almost three hours, the members of the Public Council presented their opinions and ideas regarding the process and the initialed protocols, exchanged views on possible risks and ramifications.
In his concluding remarks the President of Armenia provided clarifications on the expressed opinions.
Noting, that it is quite natural that many have concerns and questions regarding the issue, Serzh Sargsyan at the same time stated that the Armenian side tried to create a more or less bearable environment which would be conducive for the main task - the dialogue. “It is our goal,” the President of Armenia stressed and added that the same idea might be interpreted differently by different people. “Can anyone show an international agreement comprising four or five points which could not be interpreted in different ways? It is not done on purpose. Generally, any document, even a work of fiction eighty out of present here hundred persons may understand in different ways. We all have our own way of thinking, our mentality and we should recognize and understand it.”
The President reflected also on the expressed concerns and apprehensions and noted, “Have we ever been free of them? When we voted for Armenia’s independence, had we been hundred percent sure that everything would be fine? I personally was very much concerned when in Nagorno Karabakh we had been compelled to take up armed struggle.” Mentioning, that anxiety was always there, Serzh Sargsyan underscored, “What I am saying is that it is not right to carry on living like this. We should have normal relations and to have them we must start talking. It’s my opinion. If someone thinks that even talking is wrong, I respect that opinion, if he or she was against talking four, five, or fifteen years ago. But when the talkers are many and their only goal is to collect dividends on the people’s dreams, it is bad. Of course, there are political parties and individuals who truly believe in what they say. In that case, their opinion should be respected.”
Responding to the question on whether to open borders means to open the roads, the President of Armenia said, “What else can it mean? Only and only to open the roads.”
Serzh Sargsyan spoke also about the concerns regarding possible demographic, religious, or economic expansion, “Have those who speak about it made some computation or they are just claiming that Turkey is a large country, we should be apprehensive of engaging in any relations with that large country. I don’t share that opinion. I don’t share it not only in theory but also I have spoken to many of our businessmen. They told me only one thing – our country has 3 million people, Turkey – 70, it means that we will get a 23 times larger market for our goods. Besides, ultimately all issues are solved by the law. Should the need arise, we will regulate it by law. Turkey is a member to the European Customs Union and the World Trade Organization.”

The President stressed once again that the process of normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations has started without preconditions. He reminded his political opponents that they had an opportunity to present their views a year, a year and half ago. “We held parliamentary and presidential elections and any of our today’s opponents could have stood up and said: “This present notion in the pre-election program or document on establishing relations with Turkey is absolutely condemnable. Why didn’t anyone raise these issues at that time?”
Responding to the supposition that the Armenian side was allegedly pressured into negotiations and to the assumption that pressure could also be exercised regarding the NK settlement, the President of Armenia said, “Nobody ever compelled us to normalize relations with Turkey. And if different international structures and various countries discuss this topic, it can be interpreted in different ways – pressure, negotiation, advocating, recommendation, etc. I repeat, we have not been pressured into this. Nobody pressured me into inviting the President of Turkey to Armenia.”

Serzh Sargsyan spoke also about the issues of the historical realm and reiterated that establishment of the relations with the Turks does not mean to question the fact of the Armenian Genocide, let alone forgetting it. “It is simply impossible. Not a single sane Armenian can forget the Genocide,” underlined the President of Armenia.

President Sargsyan said that all those who were eager to accuse the others of treason must think twice because the real treason is to be led by narrow, selfish interests.

Serzh Sargsyan stressed that he was acutely aware of the enormous difficulty of the process we have embarked on. He is also cognizant of the fact that any political process has its price, and is ready to pay that price.
According to Serzh Sargsyan, “if we are not able to negotiate with the Turks, if we are not ready then what was the whole point of becoming an independent state? We could have stayed as we were and the others would have been deciding upon and conducting our policy just the way it used to be. The Soviet Union recognized the Kars agreement on five different occasions, and joining the CIS, let alone the UN, we, as a legal successor of the USSR assumed the responsibility to respect all agreements signed by the Soviet Union. Why didn’t we speak out at that time? Upon joining the CIS we should have put forward a reservation that we accept everything except that treaty with Turkey. Why didn’t we do it if we really wanted the Kars agreement to be entirely rejected? This document doesn’t answer the question of whether we should recognize that agreement or not. During this dialogue we should be able to understand what benefits us better and which way we are going to choose – are we going to sign a new agreement, or no agreement at all, or are we going to accept as a base the previously signed agreements? Of course, on many issues we have conducted research; we have things to do, including on this particular agreement. This task is exclusively for experts. The experts must study it and give recommendations. I would like to repeat: the initialed documents give no solution to this issue whatsoever.”

Regarding the NK settlement, the President of Armenia said that in many cases the comments were approaching absurdity. “The individuals, who are trying to accuse us of making concessions on the NK issues, have never been to Karabakh, and it was necessary to be there, they were somewhere else, not even in Armenia. Are you protecting Karabakh from me? Why should I make concession on the issue? What will I get? What can entice me into doing it?”
Serzh Sargsyan said that there was no allusion to Nagorno Karabakh, and many speak of the correlation between the Armenian-Turkish dialogue and NK issue based on the Turkish or Azeri statements. The President of Armenia said that he was puzzled by the fact that the Turkish or Azeri statements were accepted as ultimate truth.

President Sargsyan didn’t exclude that Turkey and perhaps other countries as well, might use this opportunity to say that it is necessary to find an expeditious solution to the NK conflict and normalize the Armenian-Turkish relations. “It is just their wish, but not ours and anyone who is following the process closely can see that after all our statements made jointly with the Turks, the United States, Russia, the European Union, France have been making separate statements, affirming that these processes were not connected and that the negotiations are being conducted without preconditions,” the President of Armenia said. According to Serzh Sargsyan, “The NK issue must undoubtedly be solved. But we must solve it in the manner that we have been insisting on for years. When we reach through negotiations a solution, which brings lasting peace to the region and allows Nagorno Karabakh to develop, at that time we will organize public discussions. However if we do not see such a solution nothing can force us into accepting any other solution. It means that in that case we must come together as a nation, state that we are ready to fight and fight. At that time the Public Council should make a list of all those individuals, who would prefer to hide in the shadows and wait for the tumult to subside and then resurface again.”

Speaking about the expressed concern that the normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations may trigger the assimilation of the Armenian communities, the President of Armenia said that the danger of assimilation was present at all times and must be fought with by modern means.

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