Jacques Chirac visits Armenia

Jacques Chirac visits Armenia

'KocharianAzad-Hye, Dubai, 04 October 2006: French President Jacques Chirac called on Turkey on 30 September 2006 to “recognize its past” in connection with the mass killings of Armenians in the early 20th century and to acknowledge them as genocide.


“Should Turkey recognize the genocide of Armenia to join the European Union?” Chirac asked, echoing a question posed by a reporter at a joint news conference with President Robert Kocharian. “I believe so. Each country grows by acknowledging the dramas and errors of its past. Can one say that Germany, which has deeply acknowledged the holocaust, has as a result lost credit? It has grown”, he said.  


Armenia is interested in a predictable and democratic state Turkey can become, President Kocharian said at the joint press conference with the French President when responding to a Le Monde reporter's question. In his words, the talks on Turkey's accession to the EU should give the answers to urgent questions including the Armenian Genocide issue.


On the same day Chirac, accompanied by his wife Bernadette, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, Presidents of the French Senate and National Assembly, members of the governmental delegation, attended a solemn ceremony at the Armenian Genocide Monument, where he placed flowers and was greeted by an honor guard playing mournful music before being taken on a tour of the “Genocide Museum.” He made a note in the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Book by writing a single word “Remember”. He planted a fir-tree on the alley leading to the Memorial.


According to Tuluhan Bahar of “The Journal of Turkish Weekly” (01 October 2006) Chirac gave his “full support to Armenian claims against Turkey“. Tuluhan repeats the known Turkish accusations regarding the events that took place 91 years ago: “As a result of riots and occupations the Istanbul Government took the decision of Relocation (tehcir) of the Eastern Armenians … Thousands of Armenians died due to the ethnic attacks from the Kurdish tribal gangs, bad whether, famine and epidemic diseases”. The official Turkish version blames all parties except the real perpetrators. 


On 01 October 2006 Jacques Chirac met in Etchmiadzin with Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II. During the meeting the Catholicos informed Chirac that the representation of the Armenian Apostolic Church in France will soon be reformed into a Diocese. He thanked the French people for hosting Armenians who survived the Genocide in 1915 and for recognizing the Armenian Genocide.


Chirac in his turn said, “Naturally, France should have been among the first countries to recognize the Armenian Genocide. I hope that owing to denouncing similar crimes, they will not be repeated in the future”. Chirac visited the Cathedral and the Treasure House of Etchmiadzin.


Taha Akyol of Turkish daily “Milliyet” describes the remarks of Chirac as the “Armenian Games of the Dinosaur” (Turkish Press.com 02 October 2006). According to him “The tired old dinosaur [Chirac] who can?t grasp the understanding of history, science and freedom in today?s world is behind old-fashioned political games. He?s taking steps to win over Armenia for France in the Caucasian region.”


While primarily serving as the inauguration of “The Year of Armenia in France”, Chirac's visit was also an occasion to address regional issues, “Today I want to believe that it?s the time for peace. I want to believe in that, as I know what war means,” said Chirac, reflecting on the Armenian-Azeri conflict, at one of the meetings. He stated that France has done its best for over 10 years to assist settlement of the Karabakh conflict, and that it's wrong to think now that conflicts are to be solved by force.


Parallel to the year-round Armenian Year activities in France, “The Days of France in Armenia” were officially inaugurated on 02 October 2006. Some ten art and photo exhibitions, several theater performances, a festival of French films, classical music concert, as well as fashion shows are planned in Yerevan during the coming period.


On the other hand, the Council of Europe's parliamentary Assembly President Rene van der Linden criticized on 02 October 2006 the suggestions by Chirac that Ankara should recognize World War I era massacres of Armenians as genocide if it wanted to join the European Union. “One can't change the rules in the middle of the game,” he told reporters, referring to EU membership conditions for Turkey.


Kocharian and ChiracSuat Kınıklıoğlu of the “Turkish Daily News” (03 October 2006) tries to analyze Chirac's visit by Armenia and sees in Chirac's declarations a sign of Turcophobic euphoria. “In the final analysis, Chirac's visit to Armenia may provide a photo opportunity for Kocharian, a couple of days of media attention and political satisfaction for the diaspora. But what real good is in it for Armenia? What does such a provocative visit accomplish in terms of the resolution of the Karabakh conflict or the increasingly doomed isolation of Armenia? … What does France hope to achieve from sowing the seeds of antagonism and provoking Turkey in an increasingly shrinking world that has brought civilizational discord to the doorstep of Europe? This is unclear. What is clear though is that France has become the leading Turcophobic state in Europe“, she says.  


The Associated Press reported on 03 October 2006 that Turkey said it was out of the question to accept a call by French President Jacques Chirac who urged Turkey over the weekend to acknowledge the mass killings of Armenians in the early 20th century as genocide. Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Chirac's remarks during a visit to Armenia on Saturday were “met with deep grief”.


Once more Mehmet Ali Brand is the best media personality who expresses the Turkish collective attitude towards the Armenians and the Armenian Genocide. It is worth to read his lengthy comment published in the 4 October 2006 issue of the “Turkish Daily News”. With his logic he urges his compatriots to adopt a new policy to “wipe away the stain of genocide”. To the question of how could the Armenians “deceive” the world with their Genocide “claims” he provides a self fulfilling answer: “Their numbers are few, but these guys have been working for 90 years to get acceptance of their claims”. He does not ask the question why would “these guys” work 90 years on a subject that was almost unachievable for decades and was even considered as a forgotten case. Let us read the complete article:


Are a handful of Armenians deceiving the entire world?:

By Mehmet Ali Birand (04 October 2006, Turkish Daily News)


I have been thinking about this matter for a long while. How can a handful of Armenians persuade the entire world to believe in their genocide claims?


It's right, isn't it?


They number only a few million. Even if they are all capable people, it's not enough. Even if they are very good liars, not all of the people they lie to are idiots. They first ensured that some parliaments would pass resolutions accepting that Armenians were victims of genocide. They convinced a lot of people. Now they are working to ensure that those who deny their claims are prosecuted.


However, how do they manage to make so many people believe in their story?


I wonder if those who accept the Armenian claims do so because Armenians are Christians and all of them hate Muslim Turks.


It doesn't make much sense.


Do they hate us so much or see us as a huge threat that they exploit the Armenian claims to pressure us?


It sounds like a conspiracy theory, doesn't it?


But why do we face the current climate?


Actually, the answer is very simple.


Their numbers are few, but these guys have been working for 90 years to get acceptance of their claims.


They shouted their claims again and again.


They made movies and published books about them.


We, meanwhile, were ?honorably? silent in our own corner. We didn't even talk about the matter among ourselves. We acted as if we had something to hide. We didn't talk about what we did wrong or right.


When we see what's happening today, we are surprised. We feel it's too late to do anything. Most of the world believes whatever Armenians say. Armenians also believe they were victims of genocide. They also believe we, as the descendants of the Ottoman Empire, should pay a price for what happened.


Then I ask myself, shouldn't we do something new to counter these claims.


Instead of delving into the past and accusing the Armenians of lying and arguing it was Turks who were the main victims, isn't it about time we acted in accordance with today's facts and open a new page. Don't we need a new strategy?


The public is very sensitive. I don't want to be misunderstood. I'm not trying to say the genocide claims should be accepted. I have repeatedly noted that I don't believe in the claims.


We should not forget the fact that these claims have stuck on us. It is impossible to extricate ourselves from them. We need to formulate a new strategy to wipe away the stain of genocide.


Let's stop being lazy. Instead of accusing others or blaming the Armenians, we need to formulate a realistic policy. We should act with our mind, not our emotions. If not, one day we will find ourselves in a one way road with no chance of return. 













Photos by Kevork Minasian (Aleppo-Yerevan) from the opening ceremony of “France Square” near the Opera House in Yerevan