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South Caucasus
Tigran Torosyan, interview

Armenian Parliament speaker Tigran Torosyan: Orhan Pamuk, we're proud of him

In Yerevan, our last meeting was in the Armenian Parliament. Before we entered the Parliament building, we had to be thoroughly checked by guards wearing hats bearing a symbol of Mt. Ararat (Agri in Turkish). Ararat is also seen on the government symbol on the facade of the Parliament building.

Parliament Speaker Tigran Torosyan graciously welcomed us at the entrance of his room. It was no surprise to see Ararat on the wall of his room too. Then Torosyan told us that his ancestors were from Diyadin (in Turkey's Agri province) but he's never been there.

Torosyan believes diplomatic relations must be established between Turkey and Armenia soon, and believes the moment Turkish society faces the "realities of its past" this will happen.

According to Parliament Speaker Torosyan, the Treaty of Kars is a 100-year-old agreement so there's no use ratifying it today. Here's what Torosyan had to tell us during our interview.

TNA: How do you see Turkish-Armenian relations?

TOROSYAN: It's a broad issue, but which part would you like to evaluate?

TNA: What would you like to say about the Treaty of Kars, the agreement defining the Turkish Republic's Eastern borders, which is still not recognized by Armenia?

TOROSYAN: For the sake of both countries, the best solution could only found by once diplomatic relations are established. And very honestly I have told you that Armenian side did its best to solve the matters. Without any preconditions we're ready for that. But let me also say this too: Turkey isn't taking any step but instead it's putting forth additional conditions. I believe this is terrible.


Some say that small positive steps could help relations get better. Don't you think your Parliament ratifying Kars could be one such step?

I'd be glad to hear such expectations. But this is a 100-year-old agreement. What's the use of ratifying it today? The global parliamentary rules are clear enough, so we obey those rules too.

It seems that the deadlock is because of the Armenian side's insistence that "genocide" be recognized.

Armenia has never put this as a condition in front of Turkey.

But parliaments worldwide, including the French Parliament, are under the pressure of Armenians, and since they keep on pushing those bills, the deadlock seems to persist too.

By saying this, I believe that you are over exaggerating our position. Do you really believe that Armenia has such an influence on international parliaments? I don't think Armenia has such an impact, such a capacity over the French Parliament. I also believe that since these are the actions of third countries, they were not supposed to be affecting our mutual relations. But despite this, if third parties actions are conditioning our mutual relations, then this isn't logical. I would also remind you that Turkey's stand on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is the same for us too. I mean Turkey's ongoing pressure.

Don't you think the application of UN resolutions would be a good solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

13 years ago, the UN Security Council declared three different solutions. But since then there have been many developments in the area. The most important thing was the cease-fire agreement, and secondly the Minsk Group was created in the framework of OSCE efforts. So the Minsk Group is dealing with the conflict. I'm glad that there's an important progress on these negotiations. The most important international principles on such conflicts are territorial integrity and the right to self-determination. As you see, these aren't in a conflict with the ongoing efforts of the Minsk Group. Also in the Council of Europe it was announced that the Karabakh issue would be solved in the framework of these two principles (territorial integrity and self-determination), but it's a shame that all these realities were kept a secret from the Azerbaijani people. Also according to the UN Security resolutions, both countries (Azerbaijan and Armenia) cannot spend too much on the military, cannot promote hostile stands, and cannot spread propaganda or hatred against each other. But as you see, Azerbaijan is the side not obeying these rules.


So how do you see the hostile stand of Armenian society against Turkey, even though majority of the Turks accept that 1915 incidents were a great tragedy? How do you evaluate the Armenian side's insistence on "genocide" recognition?

We have to see the truth as it is, I mean the whole truth. For example I often meet with Turkish deputies in Strasbourg (during European Parliament meetings) but it's a shame that only one of them is really unconditioned, far from all the complexes, Mr. Mevlut Cavusoglu (AK Party Antalya deputy). Many times I suggested to him, as deputies from both countries, let's get together to discuss the issues. Once we could achieve this we decided to hold further meetings. But then I didn't hear from him for three years. We're both on the same EP committee, the Committee on Immigration, but during most of the meetings I notice that Turkish deputies are trying to mislead committee members and this is because of their preconditions against us.

But getting back to the 1915 incidents …

The day Turkey starts thinking the right way and taking its position the right way, everything will be especially better for Turkey, not for Armenia.

How do you see the border issue between the two countries?

Certainly we wish the border to be opened, even though I don't believe that this is simple. Let me tell you why. Greek Cyprus is a part of the EU, isn't it? And also a member of the Council of Europe. Turkey also wants to become a full member of EU, but even in accordance with Greek Cyprus as a full member country, Turkey tries to put some conditions. So with Turkey stubbornly refusing a Cyprus solution, how could it say yes to the Armenian-Turkish border opening? Certainly if the border could be opened and kept like that, both countries would be beneficiaries, but I believe the complexes and conditions are keeping Turkey from doing this.

In Turkey, many people also believe the border should be opened.

I believe their number isn't small, and the day Turkey starts adopting realistic policies it will be opened. I also believe that this day isn't so far away.


May I ask you directly, why is Mt. Ararat on the Armenian government's symbol?

You make me laugh, but may I ask you first, what does it mean to have the crescent and the star as symbols on your flag? You tell me first.

As far as I know, the crescent and star are universal symbols, but Mt. Ararat is in Turkey.

In fact, Mt. Ararat is the most universal symbol in the world, I wouldn't ever think there's a more universal symbol in the world than Ararat. But undoubtedly you must know what deep emotions we have towards Ararat. So your feelings about the crescent and star and our feelings about Ararat are the same.

Have you read any of Orhan Pamuk's novels?

No, it's a shame that recently I've really had a very tight schedule so I can't read anything other than official documents. Really I believe this is a shame. But an author from our region who is awarded the Nobel Prize is also a great honor for us.

When you urge Turkey to adopt realistic policies, may I ask how you see the lack of a consensus about the 1915 events among international historians? Some say that it was genocide, but some believe it all happened as a consequence of a deportation resolution.

It's very sad that even scholarship isn't clean, it can be stained by personal expectations of some people. There are some scholars and investigators who try to create better living conditions for themselves and they dare to distort reality. But there's no doubt that many people in the world know the truth, even in Turkey. I wish that tragedy had never happened. Can you ever believe that any nation could act so masochistically? Can you ever believe that we have such an unreality in our minds that even though these never took place, we assume them as a reality?


So what's the way from this deadlock?

I have many good Turkish friends like some Council of Europe deputies, for example Mr. Murat Mercan (AK Party Eskisehir deputy), and he always tells me, "The future is important, let's give up history." Certainly the future is important, but is it possible to forget the past? We must never forget about the tragedies so they won't ever be repeated again. Certainly there were many among the Turks protecting Armenians from murder, and we don't forget their goodness either.

Some believe the Armenian archives are kept closed, and some believe that Turks do the same. What's the truth here?

Let me give you an example. When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote a letter to our President, Robert Kocharian. Let's give up discussing the letter but it's known by many of the Turkish deputies that President Kocharian replied right away. They made a declaration in Strasbourg as if there had been no reply. They declared that Erdogan's letter was a big step but there was no reply from the Armenian side. This is a very concrete example to tell who's right and who's wrong.

But what is the result of such diplomacy of letters? The Armenian side refused to establish a platform to discuss the issue.

No, historians and experts are free to study. But establishing such a commission, if the aim is to discuss the genocide if it ever happened or not, I wouldn't see any use. The genocide is a historical fact. Why did hundreds of thousands of Armenians have to leave Turkey, and why are there only a few of them living in Turkey now? Why couldn't they ever go back to their homeland? You don't have to be a historian to be able to answer that question.


Don't you think the Turkish historians are dishonest in facing facts?

Certainly they will work on the issue. Maybe there will be bilateral visits too. No one is keeping historians from both sides working and cooperating. Let me tell you this, Turkey is our neighbor, I'm on the side of normalization of our mutual relations. I believe that even the Turkish citizens wouldn't reject the realities if they could really know them. In fact maybe they know the truth, but are afraid of the consequences of such a reality.

Do you mean possible compensation demands?

Even such a question means that the truth is known very well.

I just tried to remind you of this controversy, this isn't my personal opinion.

But many independent sources also believe that Turkish society is aware of the truth, but they are scared of the consequences.

Some believe that Azerbaijan is also a victim of genocide, done by Armenians. How do you see this?

When and where did it take place?

There are many books and studies telling about this.

If there was such genocide in those years, why do we see the majority of Azeri people still living in those territories? This is their allegation, only an Azeri allegation. We want to establish good neighborly relations with Azerbaijan too. We're very tolerant with them. I accept that relations with Turkey are problematic but despite this, our citizens often go to Turkey and come back. Despite all these difficult conditions we try our best with Turkey. We're even more tolerant than Turks.

Nursun Erel - TNA
12 December 2006