Raffi Hovannisian's Unpublished Interview with Turkish News Magazine
Yerevan—On August 21, Armenia’s first foreign minister and Heritage Party founder Raffi K. Hovannisian received a request for an interview from the “Yeni Aktuel” magazine of Turkey. A few days later he delivered, and the magazine thankfully received, his responses to its questions. For reasons yet unknown, the interview has not to date been published.
For the record, the unmodified original transcript of questions and answers follows:
“Q- President Sarkisyan has invited Turkish President Abdullah Gul to visit Armenia on September 6 to watch the World Cup qualifying match between Armenia and Turkey. How do you think about that? According your opinion, what must do Turkish President? What do you prefer as an Armenian citizen?
A- We know well that the opportunities for and challenges of Armenia’s and Turkey’s ultimate reconciliation cannot be solved in a 90-minute football match. Only an honest and brave dialogue—its format flexible, its allegiance to truth unshakeable—can bring our nations the peace and friendship we desire.
Q- Can this be a good opportunity for Turkish and Armenian relationship if we consider that Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic links since 1990’s and the border between Turkey and Armenia is closed.
A- There is never a bad time to begin good relations. The absence of diplomatic ties and open frontiers has been Ankara’s unilateral policy of choice.
Q- Actually, what are the expectations of Armenian people from Turkey? What must do Turkey to re-create relations between two countries?
A- The Armenian people expect good faith and integrity: good faith in process and integrity of substance. In respect of the latter, it is crucial to most citizens of Armenia that Turkey face the exclusionist legacy of the Great Armenian Dispossession—beginning with recognizing the genocidal past, teaching it, and atoning for it through, inter alia, a joint celebration of the Armenian civilization from Mount Ararat and Ani to all the other capitals, towns, villages, fortresses, schools, academies, churches, and monasteries of the ancestral homeland; the conduct of a full inventorization, restoration, and operationalization of the Armenian cultural heritage within its jurisdiction; the realization of a guaranteed right of secure voluntary return for the progeny and descendants of the dispossessed; and an end to its long-standing blockade of Armenia, which constitutes an act of enmity and a material breach of the very Soviet-Turkish treaties on which Ankara relies to assert its eastern frontier. Only through a landmark demonstration of fortitude, good will, and sincerity can the sovereign Republics of Turkey and Armenia come to their first-ever bilateral agreement in all of history.
Q- On your opinion, what is the Turkish image for an Armenian? What do Armenians feel about Turkey and Turks?
A- I appreciate the distinction you make, because in reality governments and peoples are different—and, unfortunately in the Armenian case, conflicting—concepts. I cannot speak for Armenia’s government. But it seems to me that the majority of Armenians bear no inherent hostility toward the people of Turkey and, quite the contrary, are ready and happy to begin a conciliation process, so long as it is founded on respect—for each other and for the truth. My grandmother, a Genocide survivor from Ordu, was saved as a little girl by a Turkish family of good conscience whom she blessed until her dying day.
Q- On your opinion, how these two countries can solve common problems?
A- How do two neighbors solve problems? They talk. They talk politely and respectfully. They talk honestly. Most importantly, they talk bravely. If either side lacks any of these commitments—if the aim, in other words, is to achieve not peace but a momentary detente—then all of these discussions are ephemeral and fruitless.
Q- What is your opinion about Turkish prime minister Erdogan’s proposal about a “Caucasian Cooperation Platform.”
A- Cooperation is key to conflict resolution, but we must define the goals for which we cooperate. If the objective is to forge a lasting peace between Armenia and Turkey based on a fundamental acceptance of history and a courageously-negotiated program to overcome all outstanding matters of division, then I applaud the letter and spirit of that cooperation. But if the mission is to engineer a geopolitical lockdown or to contractualize a revision of Turkey’s past, there is neither purpose nor morality to it. The relevant scenarios are there for the choosing; it remains for us to break out of the box and shift the strategic paradigm in resolution to a future where both nations become partners in a common neighborhood of liberty, human rights, democratic values, and shared security.”