Full Text of Oskanian Speech: Turkey will cite the protocol and proceed with its efforts to rewrite history

Below is the full text of a speech given by Armenia’s Former Foreign Minister Vastan Oskanian on Sept. 22.

We are facing a critical historic and political decision as a country and as a people and Civilitas believes in the importance of public debate. But in the case of these protocols, the debate is going off in the wrong direction. Not only are we presented with a fait accompli, but they’re also telling us nothing is changeable, and those documents have no preconditions.

Vartan Oskanian
Vartan Oskanian

Reading these protocols one unwillingly comes to the following conclusion: That these documents were prepared, somewhere, with Turkey’s participation, and imposed on the Armenian side, or the Armenian side really did negotiate this document having fully convinced itself that Armenia’s future development and survival is indeed completely linked to the opening of this border.

Those are the only two possible explanations. Otherwise, it’s not possible to understand the logic of these documents that unequivocally give Turkey what it has wanted for 18 years. Let’s not fool ourselves, let’s not mislead our people, let’s not trample on our own dignity, and let’s call things by their name.

For a moment, let’s assume that the border will indeed open. We will, as a nation, have to recognize that the border is being opened in exchange for important concessions of history and national honor, and of our sense of who we are and how we view our role and place in this region. We will have conceded our equal place in our future relations with Turkey.

At the base of this document is a defeatist attitude. It reminds me of the mood in 1997, when we were being told Armenia has no hope of further development, that it can’t be a stable, fully independent state if the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict is not quickly resolved. The next 10 years came to disprove this. Despite the many problems and faults of that period, with the border still closed, there was in fact serious economic improvement. Our economy saw double-digit growth thanks to old and new economic reforms and their continuation. The country became more stable, with a new sense of unity, however fragile and incomplete, and with broader diaspora inclusion.

Today, Armenia’s situation is again very difficult. We have an inexplicable 18.4 percent decline in growth, when the average world decline is 2-3 percent. The diaspora and Armenia have never been so distant from each other. Our society has never been so polarized. Our people have never felt so hopeless about our country’s future. Under these conditions, old sentiments have emerged again, telling us that Armenia can never become a fully independent state and cannot develop economically because of the closed border and the unresolved Karabagh conflict.

Today, since we’ve already gone down this road, I can say with even greater confidence that that’s not the case.

We must have trust in our own resources, in our people, in our country, in our future. If we successfully completed first generation economic reforms, we must move on to the second, third, fourth, fifth generations. These hold huge potential for our prosperity. We have an ever greater potential source: our unity and common sense of purpose.

Despite all this, there is also a new area where no one—not past administrations and not this one either—has seriously and honestly ventured. Very little has been done in the thorny but vital area of political reform. Unfortunately, our state is not a democratic state yet. But our whole future and security depend on that one word. We have not invested in fortifying and consolidating our democratic institutions, and now instead of going forward, we are going backwards. Our people, any people, are creative when they are free; but we have not created the conditions, the equal playing field, an assured rule of law society that protects the freedoms that enable prosperity. The closed border has not kept them out. Our succeeding governments have not nourished the seeds that are here on our land.

Our problems are here, at home. The solutions, too, must be sought here. No one says no to open borders or to an agreement on Karabagh. But we must do so in the right way, in a dignified way, not with an imposed external solution, but a solution achieved from positions of strength among equal partners.

Signing these documents will not solve our problems. On the contrary, they will bring on entirely new setbacks and problems that can only be tackled by a unified, free, hopeful society.

That is not to say protocols with Turkey should not be signed. Of course they should. Even these two protocols, with all their major and minor unacceptable, controversial, questionable provisions would be acceptable, if at the very least, one sentence were removed, and a few words changed.

But as currently formulated, they cannot be signed.

First, if we were to assume that Turkey, after signing the protocols, will ratify them as well, we must ask ourselves: Will the opening of the Turkish border be worth the price we will pay? This is the price they have been asking since 1991, when after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey recognized and established diplomatic relations with all former Soviet republics except Armenia. Since the beginning, they’ve had two demands—that Armenia renounce any territorial claims and that Armenians renounce the international genocide recognition campaign. A third demand was added in 1993—that Armenians withdraw from the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabagh.

Since that day, those three conditions have been consistently repeated. Today, the first two are formalized in the protocol. It’s there, black and white, and our government has apparently agreed to meet those demands. The protocol is worded such that not only do we agree to respect the territorial integrity of Turkey, but in the next sentence, we consent to renounce our historic rights as well as even the theoretical possibility of regaining historic justice.

Today there are more than 190 countries in the world, and there are nearly that many territorial disputes among them. That means that pairs of countries with normal relations with each other continue to disagree over their borders. A fourth of those disputes are in Europe. They have embassies, they trade, they have friendly relations, but their diplomats continue to talk and argue, respectfully, over their differing interpretations of history and territory. Those countries have signed protocols and have diplomatic relations.

In our region, even with our friendly, brotherly Georgia, Armenia and Georgia have not “recognized current existing borders.” Demarcation is just now ongoing between us. Neither have Georgia and Azerbaijan. There, demarcation hasn’t even begun. But there are diplomatic relations. Those other 190 countries have agreed to respect each other’s territorial integrity, not their current existing borders. That is the international practice. There is a clear distinction in international relations between respecting territorial integrity and recognizing current borders. Look, we often say that we recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. But we continue the sentence and point out that Nagorno Karabakh has nothing to do with Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity since it’s never been a part of independent Azerbaijan.

Today, we can recognize Turkey’s territorial integrity. But how we continue that sentence is a right that no one can take from us or our future generations.

A protocol to establish diplomatic relations between two states sets the start for a long-term relationship during which two countries will tackle and resolve many new and ongoing bilateral problems. When the document that formalizes this relationship includes language that transforms the relationship to an unequal one, extracting one-sided concessions, one wonders about the future of such relations.

We want relations with Turkey, but we want them with a Turkey that wants equal and reciprocal relations with Armenia. We want relations with a Turkey that understands that the Europe to which we both aspire is not a Europe without disputes, but a Europe where neighbors agree to disagree while continuing to live neighborly and in dignity. We deserve no less.

The same concerns exist with the protocol provision about a historical sub-commission and the “impartial scientific examination of the historical records.” Our neighbor, the successor to a state that committed genocide, has not itself condemned this internationally recognized crime, yet expects to use this protocol to formalize its own unwillingness to confront history. Worse, Armenia’s government has acquiesced and agreed to be dragged into another endless process of denying and rewriting. Already, before the documents are even signed, there is talk of Turkey’s asking countries to re-visit their own statements of genocide recognition and condemnation. Turkey will cite the protocol and proceed with its efforts to rewrite history. Armenia and Armenians will expend energy and time to confirm historic facts.

These are the pitfalls that await us if Turkey intends to ratify the protocols. But what if this is all intended to show the world that they are ready to proceed with open borders, while at the same time their parliament withholds ratification until Azerbaijan is satisfied with the Karabagh resolution?

This is the fundamental danger. These are not empty fears, this is not the product of an active imagination. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu remind us of this condition daily. Their demands on Karabagh are Azerbaijan’s demands. Already, even before the protocols are signed, they continue to speak of those conditions. During the last year, there has not been an opportunity when Erdogan has spoken of Armenia-Turkey relations without mentioning a return of the territories surrounding Karabagh, and sometimes even the return of Karabagh itself. There hasn’t been one opportunity when Erdogan, in his bilateral meetings, has not spoken about Karabagh as an important agenda item. Apparently, Turkey is not concerned that as a consequence of such announcements, Armenia will withdraw from this process or from signing the document. Thus, Turkey is going against the letter and spirit of the document, by taking sides with one neighbor at the expense of another.

In other words, if the purpose of this document and this process is to look to the future, that is not happening.

The only part about this that is surprising is that our leadership either does not hear them, does not want to hear them, or wants to believe they really mean something other than what they say.

For 15 years, Turkey has maintained the blockade, hoping for our economic and political capitulation. It didn’t happen and will not happen. Today, it is they who desperately need to come out of that political corner in which they placed themselves, it is they who need that border open, and they seem to have found a way to do it, at our expense.

Today, they need to open the border. It is they who are under great European pressure within their accession time frames. Today, they need to open the border because they are the ones who have economic issues at their eastern border that they need resolved. Today, they need to open the border because they are the ones in fear of the genocide recognition process that has been moving quickly and has culminated in great U.S. pressure. Finally, they need the border open in order to reinforce their leadership role in this region.

Instead, our government has been making concessions, in their haste to move this process forward. From the beginning, if they were not farsighted enough to avoid being put in this position, now that this situation has been created, they must find a way to change course.

They have no choice. We are at a crossroads in our history. We have on the table the first bilateral document that the independent sovereign Republic of Armenia intends to sign with the Republic of Turkey. These documents are not for and by third parties, as with the countless historical documents of the past where Armenia is a subject and not a party, but for the first time in history, a document in which Armenia is signing on to its own perceived place in history.

I wanted to make clear the basis of my criticism: We must and should move to normal relations with Turkey. But this document with these formulations should not be signed. Indeed, no one is authorized to sign this document with such formulations.

When people hear my criticism, sometimes they accuse me of jealousy. I think they do this so that they don’t have to have to deal with the substance of my criticism, but instead, they trivialize it so they can dismiss it.

Nevertheless, I want to confess, I am sometimes envious. But of Turkish diplomacy. I would not dare to bring such a document to the table, I wouldn’t sign it and I don’t envy the man who will soon do so.

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8 Comments

  1. Baron Oskanian was a respected and courageous Foreign Minister during his time in office. I think he would make an even better RA President. He is right on the mark in his analysis above. The Turkish government will continue playing dumb about 1915 and those of us that demand justice will be ignored and labeled nationalists. But since when has the legitimate and lawful pursuit of justice been misconstrued as the agenda of nationalists?

  2. I agree with most of Mr Oskanian statements, especially the following statement “We must have trust in our own resources, in our people, in our country, in our future“.
    Scientifically, I don’t really understand why we need to open borders at all. We are at war with the Turks on the east and the west, and during a war people gather their resources and close the gates of the fortress. If we think of the country, Armenia (plus Artsakh), as a fortress. This fortress is a more than enough self contained ecosystem fortress (see BIOSPHERES for an idea of self-contained ecosystems). We have abundance of water, energy resources are taken care of by Metzamor plant and the route from Iran. Wheat and food can be cultivated inside these lands, especially near Artsakh. We had good brains to build MIG fighters for Russians during Soviet times, why cannot we develop the best weapons in the world inside Armenia? Technologically, the best computer/software people are the Armenians scattered all over the world. We have a strong cultural and scientific maturity at the global level even during this economic depression period. Given all these facts, why do we need to expose the gates of the west and east for? Do we like the Turkish tomato so much? Or is it their dried fig and pickle that we are craving for?
    Some people think that by exposing (i.e. opening) the borders, the economy will boom inside Armenia. Well, they are all flat wrong. The fact is that whatever we have so far will be destroyed in less than 5 years, if the borders to west and east are exposed. Over 300 years, the turks have perfected the idea of Trojan horse that they learned from the Byzantines, they have played this game successfully in Cyprus and Kosovo. Recently, they have played this game in Ughur populated area in China, and they can certainly play this game in Yerevan if we expose our borders.
    Finally, if we want an open route to Black Sea and therefore Europe, we should embrace the Georgian people as our brothers (i.e. not Saakishvili regime but the Georgian people), who are indeed our traditional brothers (they even had a kingdom of Bagradouni family. During Tamar queen we were a united federation). Of course, the Georgian are already a victim of this NATO Turkish trap, so much so that they have killed their own brothers, the Osets and Abkhaz. I believe the time will come for Saakishvili to go, and Georgians will wakeup from these NATO/Turkish foolishness. Until then we must be more forgiving to our true brothers, the Georgians, instead of our arch-enemies, the Turks.
    Remember that when playing the Carrot and Stick game with Turks, people wake up to realize that they have become a carrot. Therefore, the only game that you can play with Turks is Shield and Sword.

  3. Separate the waters of the rivers falling into the sea, and I will drink the sea.
    Today, as never before, Armenian people are close to the resolution of two main problems – a) Recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey and b) Recognition of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) in protocols be issued by the UN and EU and other unions of Nations.
    The difficulties of national economics congregate into an unstable seed of a global avalanche of an unpredictable economic disaster, which will be dragging in the political and social disasters as well. The process develops fast. Today is visible that all initiatives of superpowers are either dead- or, ill-born, unfortunately. For instance, apparently, the very idea of road-map is a curtain for bringing to the area of “all-sort workers” from outside and changing the demographic map of the region. There are few nations in the world remaining homogeneous. The New World Order needs the 5th colon everywhere. Designed for wars, there will be no road built, however. Sounds ironical that, for such headache future, Armenian government pays visit to the table of dead-end agreement. The lack of moral consistency in foreign politics of superpowers develops from being a single event into a standard on a global scale. The world changes fast and it is not wise to seal important documents now. Wait Armenia, time is on the Armenian side!
    Armenian people pioneered many high spirited, exemplary paths for humanity – an avant-garde adoption of Christianity – the most progressive moral and spiritual guidance at that time, despite bitten down by all advanced nations; creation of the alphabet for the purpose of securing national identity; battle of Avarayr for the protection of national values. None can make us forget what Armenian’s roots are!
    None part involved in the “South-Caucasus” problem needs stabilization more than the USA, Turkey and the Russia. Hear it in the “everything possible” can be done to make it happen, in the William J. Burn’s speech at Georgetown University. “Everything” also includes the Armenian part making clear that the above stated Recognitions must be enforced, before any physical actions are applied. Gorbachev has used the Armenian cause to pursue his agenda. Problem of Nagorno-Karabakh was lifted from the historical protocols then. Symbolically, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has its former citizen presiding government of Armenia. Today, nearly 22 years apart, same kind of politicians is playing similar cards for pushing the agenda of the “New World Order”. Now, you tell who will win.
    So, if “everything is possible”, let us, the Armenians of the Armenia and its Diaspora unite for another first-step into future! Let’s dictate, not bend and obey! State our rights for the Recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey and the Recognition of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) by countries and unions of nations. Demand both the UN and the EU issue this in two separate protocols! Only after that, Armenia shell consider opening of the borders. Remember Aesop’s saying: “Separate the waters of the rivers falling into the sea and I will drink the sea”.  
    The whole planet hopes we do it right.

  4. Thanks Lusik for your comment, I agree with you entirely.
    Against the juggernaut of “Globalization” we need to build a fortress of natural Wisdom…
    We must learn to live by our land and on our land, and stop depending on other unfriendly countries…

  5. Mr. Oskanian wants to make only a couple of changes in the Protocols?   This shows why Oskanian has always been part of the problem.

    There are more than two things wrong with the Protocols.  They are filled with irrelevancies and hypocrisy.  For example, the part about illegal drug trafficing.  Turkey is the main transit route for heroin into Europe, and the government is complicit.   Turkey has no right to lecture Armenia about drugs, or human rights for that matter.   
    I think that Oskanian is still trying to play all sides issues.  I have asked why – and have still not received any answer – his Civilitas foundation has as a top member Peter Rosenblatt, a leader within the American Jewish Committee, a group which like the Anti-Defamation League denies the Armenian genocide and which has long been against the Armenian genocide resolution in Congress.

    Harut Sassounian and others, including ANCA and the Armenian Weekly, have written many times  about Barry Jacobs who until recently was a director of the AJC and an infamous genocide denier who appeared in a Turkish genocide denial film in Europe (title: Sari Gelin).
    So, it appears to me that Oskanian is playing up to the power structures instead of absolutely defending Armenia’s interests.  Yes, Oskanian says some nice things above, but I question his sincerity.   Let’s hear from Oskanian about his genocide denialist AJC friend Rosenblatt.
    Armenia’s Parliament and President were elected fraudulently through ballot box stuffing, media represssion and intimidation, threats, violence, and all sorts of wrongdoing that go back years.
    They have no right, therefore, to negotiate or ratify such a weighty and controversial (to say the least) document as the Protocols from Hell.
    Step 1: Members of the opposition parties must declare that the government is illegal and demand its resignation
    Step 2: Members of the opposition must resign from the government
    Step 3: The opposition must declare that the Protocols were negotiated by an illegal government and violate present international law (as explained by various persons, including Ara Papian).
    Step 4: The opposition must declare that if the Protocols are “ratified,” they will forever be regarded as illegal and DOA (”Dead-on-Arrival”) and will never have the force of law even if the present government and Turkey claim otherwise.
    A “law”, if you wish the dignify the Protocols from Hell by that name, that does not have the clear INFORMED support of the people – and this one clearly does not – is a law that will be ratified under a dark cloud and that Armenians will not accept and that the international community knows is DOA.   The Protocols process will fall apart if the outcry by the opposition is united and strong. 

  6. What Oskanian is now saying is essentially a pomposity for his likely presidential bid in four years. His Civilitas Foundation has been created to make himself more noticeable prior to his bid. Listen carefully to the format of his speech, as well as salutations he uses in his capacity as just head of an NGO: “Dear People,” “Dear Compatriots,” etc. As a spineless, flip-flopping, subservient, yet cunning, individual, he has never believed in most of what he said yesterday. For instance, while promoting his compilation of speeches in Spring of 2009, he told an audience in Aleppo, Syria, that “I do not have a problem recognizing the current Turkish-Armenian borders.” Miraculously, that speech has disappeared from Civilitas’ website! Yet, during the speech you just watched he made a contradictory remark: “With one sentence, we completely cede our historical rights. We even close the possibility, no matter how formal, of restoring historical justice.”
    Oskanian was brought to Armenia’s political fore from Los Angeles 18 years ago by those supragovernmental internationalist power elites who tend to control societies and direct world events in conformity with their maniacal dreams for One World Government with them as Rulers. Oskanian does what he’s told to do thus promoting their sick globalist agenda, not the genuine interests and aspirations of the Armenian nation and statehood. Following external orders, he decreased the effectiveness of Armenia’s foreign ministry to a disastrous level, did away with presentable, knowledgeable and, most importantly, dedicated diplomats, because powerful foreign policy, along with other strong state functions, is anathema for these sinister forces, and, consequently, for Oskanian as their cabal.
    His foundation is a bogus, a government-approved think-tank serving the interests of these forces. The foundation’s Board includes a famous genocide denier representing the American Jewish Committee, Peter Rosenblatt. He can give an eloquent speech about justice and democracy, yet, he is the one, as Robert Kocharyan’s chief foreign policy advisor for 10 years, who initiated these harmful diplomatic talks with Turkey in 2007, which resulted in devastating protocols currently on the agenda.
    Armenians in Armenia and Diaspora, beware of this individual!

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