President Sargisian Meets With Diasporans in New York

By Taleen Babayan

Mirror-Spectator Staff

The president and his entourage in New York

NEW YORK — Addressing a select group of people at the New York Palace Hotel, Serge Sargisian, President of the Republic of Armenia, once again insisted that the Armenian Genocide and Nagorno Karabagh issues would not be affected by the Armenian-Turkish protocols.

Echoing the tenor of a talk by Eduard Nalbandian, foreign minister of Armenia, delivered at Columbia University lastTuesday, Sargisian said that it is necessary to establish relations with Turkey without preconditions.

A day after tense demonstrations in Paris, Sargisian was met with protestors outside the New York Palace Hotel, waving Armenian flags and holding signs that read “Don’t Compromise Armenia’s Future” and ”Genocide Is Not Negotiable.”

Inside the hotel Sargisian met with some 50 leaders of the Armenian-American community, including representatives of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) Eastern District Committee, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian National Committee of America, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and the Prelacy of the Armenian Church of America, in a conference-room setting.

He spoke uninterrupted for close to half an hour, acknowledging the concerns of the diaspora, while stressing that relations between Turkey and Armenia should be normalized.

“I do believe that staying enemies with Turkey for an eternity is not helpful or useful to us,” said Sargisian. “This is why I initiated the current phase of Armenian-Turkish negotiations.”

Speaking about the events of 1915, Sargisian described Turkey as a country that “subjected us to Genocide, deprived us of our vital areas and 100 years since, has not only denied this reality but retained its hostile attitude and actions.”

“There are grounds for pessimism and doubt,” he said. “On the other hand, we expect there will be a discussion on the merits of the protocols.”

Addressing concerns about the provision in the protocols which calls for the establishment of a subcommittee of historians to review the Genocide, Sargisian insisted this approach would not strike a “blow to the campaign for the international recognition of the Genocide.”

As to arguments that the protocols would force Armenia to relinquish all claims to historic Armenian lands in present-day Turkey, Sargisian said “we as a state cannot file territorial claims against another state.”

“We’re signing protocols on improving relations,” he said. “I don’t think by establishing ties with Turkey, we would be shutting the door for our claims or demands.”

In the second part of his address, Sargisian said that Armenia won Nagorno Karabagh on the battlefield and will continue fighting for its recognition in the international arena.

“This process is being dealt with by the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] Minsk Group co-chairs,” he said. “We will opt for settlement only in one instance, and that is if we get what we have been seeking since 1988: Nagorno Karabagh cannot be part of Azerbaijan.”

The Minsk Group was established by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1992 in order to negotiate between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabagh. Sargisian was expected to meet with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on October 8.

“Indeed we are a small country, indeed our possibilities aren’t as great as Turkey’s, but we can’t act from the position of the weak,” Sargisian said in the conclusion of his remarks. “Our salvation lies in having a strong and prosperous state, and we are all united around this common objective.”

Sargisian then opened up the floor to questions and discussion. The president’s staff announced that the question-and-answer session would be off-the-record. The discussion lasted for several hours.

Sargisian was accompanied by former President of Karabagh Arkady Ghoukassian, Armenia’s Ambassador to the US Tatoul Markarian, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Garen Nazarian, Minister of Diaspora Hranoush Hakobyan and others.

Said Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly, “President Sargisian addressed the concerns raised whether it was the concern that the protocols called for a joint historical commission to debate the Genocide or if the protocols would forfeit Nagorno Karabagh. The president addressed these concerns and made it very clear there are no preconditions. It was at times a passionate exchange from the participants. Sargisian listened to all comments and concerns and addressed them.”

The representative of ADL Eastern District Committee was Vartan Ilandjian, vice chairman of New York Chapter; the representative of the Tekeyan Cultural Association Central Board of Directors was Antoine Bazarbashian. From Canada, ADL Board members Hratch Torikian, Dr. Hrair Der Kevork and Barkev Nazaretian participated.

ADL's Vartan Ilandijan, center, with President Serge Sargisian

ADL's Vartan Ilandijan, center, with President Serge Sargisian