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Recognition of the Armenian Genocide and territorial claims are two different fights


Standpoint of Armenia

 Recognition of the Armenian Genocide and territorial reparations are two different fights

Ara Papian


Ara Papian

Head of the Modus Vivendi Center

On the eve of the Genocide Centenary a report, entitled “Resolution with Justice - Reparations for the Armenian Genocide” was published upon the initiative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The members of the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group are Henry Theriault, Alfred de Zayas, Jermaine O. McCalpin and Ara Papian. We spoke to Ara Papian about the report, claims contained therein, compensation mechanisms and the role of the International Court of Justice. According to Ara Papian recognition of the Armenian Genocide is not a solution to the Armenian Cause and has nothing to do with territorial claims and reparation.

How was the report born?

I have been openly dealing with this issue since 2006. The reason why I am saying openly is because I started writing during that period. Before that I was a diplomat[1]

In fact many people showed interest in my thoughts and in 2007-2008 a proposal was made to turn all these thoughts into a more consolidated thing and have them in the form of a separate report.  

This work was launched long ago, it is not something new. Four main people were engaged in the work - Henry Theriault from the USA, who took up the philosophical side of the issue, genocide as a crime and its consequences in a broader sense, overcoming thereof and the like, Jermaine O. McCalpin, who had more ethical approach to the issues and Alfred de Zayas, who was specialized in the international law, and me. 

You said that the idea was born long ago but the summary report was officially published in September 2014 and it wasn’t much spoken about: Why? Wasn’t it the right moment to speak about it on the eve of the Armenian Genocide?

We should have spoken about it much earlier. Unfortunately, we Armenians are more accustomed to taking some visible actions, like demonstrations, large articles in the newspapers with large circulations and so on. However, we are not used to the so-called professional and consistent work. When the report was published and was already available, we pursued one goal - that is to get professional remarks. Of course, we got feedback but not a professional one. I got lots of words of admiration but I would prefer getting more critical remarks. For instance, one could have said that this part could have been written this or that way... that is people assess the issue instead of considering it.       

There is an opinion that topic was not presented in the right way, that is why it was not spoken about. What would you say in this regard? 

In view of consideration, 2015 had a great advantage, but it had a big shortcoming as well. On several occasions I have always mentioned that the more events are held, the more things remain in the shadow. People even get fed up with the genocide and claim-related issues. Publishing of the report is perceived as an ordinary step, like, let’s say, any demonstration held in Paris...On the other hand, I must say that during the meetings abroad it became clear that the speech and questions of many foreign diplomats were derived from the report. After all, efficiency is much more important than the brouhaha and the fact of being much spoken about.

Which are the main demands and conclusions of the report? 

The most important is the following: recognition of the genocide only cannot be perceived as a solution to our issue. It will not satisfy the Armenian circle. The next are the reparations, which include three types. Firstly, it is the moral compensation, which includes recognition, apology and changes in the curricula of Turkey. Secondly, it is the financial compensation, which relates to the property, bank accounts and thirdly, it is the territorial issue, the negotiations basis of which is Wilsonian Armenia and its borders[2]

There is Wilsonian Armenia de facto owned by Turkey and de jure by Armenia. Our task is to somehow combine de facto and de jure.

What are the means of meeting these demands?

The slogan of the Modus Vivendi Centre[3] says “Solving the regional problems by peaceful means via International Law.” Why international law? Because everything that is solved based on the international law, is more likely to be solved fairly. I don’t mean that the solution will be necessarily fair, but the probability will increase. The law is beneficial in all terms - in terms of human lives and financial ones….. Main solutions are not reached through wars. 

Recognition of the genocide has passed a certain way and we can say that it has reached some success, but I do not think it will lead to any reparation. I do not believe that the recognition of the genocide will change the Turkish society to the extent that it will say "it is yours, take it." Even the Germans did not do it.

The UN Security Council is the international institution, which is authorized to resolve these issues. It is the only body that can legitimately have a pressure lever. The Security Council will do it only when it has a decision to mandatorily implement it. The UN has two bodies, the decisions of which are binding for all member states - the Security Council and the International Court of Justice.

When we succeed in reaffirming in the UN International Court that the very territory is Armenia, when we create a situation where there will be a court decision and the Security Council will be obliged to take actions, then Turkey will negotiate with us. The Armenian side needs Armenia to have certain fixed rights on those territories, receive free, open transit passage, the right of possibility to exterritorial capital. For example, not to wait for permission from Ankara, when Armenia wants to repair any monument or, let’s say, to celebrate mass in those territories.

You lead the chapter of the report which covers territorial claims. Let’s speak about it a little bit. First of all, I’d like to ask you to expand on the grounds of territorial claims and who can put forward those claims?  

In terms of the territorial aspect, my whole activity is based on Wilson's Arbitral Award and the territorial issue is very clear. The border is drawn and determined right up to hundreds of meters accuracy – to the east and west of the border line, we speak about Van, Bitlis, Erzrum and Trabzon provinces of the former Ottoman Empire. There is also one separate problem - Kars, which was the part of Russia and Armenia. When Armenia was recognized and operated as a state, it controlled that territory. It was occupied during the war in September-November 1920 and this is a separate issue. The report does not highlight the borders of Georgia and Azerbaijan. It is the decision of the League of Nations from February 24, which is a complete package.

Who does the particular territory belong to according to the in international law? The issue has a clear-cut answer. Who does the title to the particular territory, stipulated by a certain international document, belong to? Occupation of any territory does not result in the title being transferred…

In all treaties of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire where there is an issue to surrender a territory, you can come across the following sentence: "Turkey waives its rights and titles to the given territories." This is a very important issue, even the Article 16 of the Lausanne Treaty contains an explicit waiver by Turkey of all its rights and titles to the territories, which are not included in the territory of Turkey under the Treaty of Lausanne.” Western Armenia is not in the territory of Turkey under the Treaty of Lausanne. Generally, there is no word stated about the Armenian-Turkish border in the Treaty of Lausanne. Therefore, Armenia has the right and the issue must be touched upon.

The International Court of Justice does not consider who the territory belongs to, because it is a very abstract issue, but considers the proofs submitted by the parties and sees which party gives more grounds to justify the belonging of the title. Title is important for any property…

We spoke about the rights that the Republic of Armenia must have. And what about political will? Does Armenia have it? And, generally speaking, who can pursue these claims – Armenia or Diaspora?

There is no political will in a broader sense: the first and the only more or less weighty statement was made on January 29 this year under the Pan-Armenian Declaration. However, nearly six months have passed since January and no action has been taken and, unfortunately, things will remain the same. The Declaration is easy, but consistent work is required. Of course, people, who are truly involved, will continue to pursue their aim.

As for who may pursue the aim, it depends on what we are talking about. If we speak about the property, it is either a personal or community property and the particular legal entities can do it. As for the territories, only Armenia can. From the legal standpoint, Diaspora cannot do that, since there isn’t such an institution. In the first two important stages, Diaspora also has a big role in the collection, processing and analysis of documents. However, only Armenia is competent to apply to the International Court of Justice. Generally, when we speak about the International Court of Justice, the word “international” confuses us, it would be better to say “interstate”, and this will mean solution of problems, which exist between states.

What mechanism does the repot offer to implement the demands?

The mechanism is one and ways to reach it many. Article 33 of Statute of the International Court of Justice gives competence to the court to express opinion or make a decision on any interstate document. The issue of jurisdiction is very important…

Many say that we should apply to court for territorial claims… There is no such thing, because no court in the world can decide who the land belongs to. But the same court can determine the status of the current document.

If the issue is viewed as a dispute, then Armenia and Turkey should apply together to the court, since in case of a dispute, one party cannot apply to the court without another party. But if the issue is viewed as an interpretation of the current document, in this case there is no need for a second party.

If Turkey is confident that the territory belongs to it and the claim of Armenia is illegal, let it come to the court. Even a negative response from the court is useful for the Armenian party. We will understand that we cannot solve the problem this way and will choose other ways of tackling the issue.

Why Turkey does not take such a step and does not come to the court?

First of all, Armenia did not raise such an issue… One of our weak points is that, from a legal standpoint, we haven’t put forward a clear dispute. Armenia never made a statement that Turkey occupied our lands. Armenia should make the first step. Although in this case also Turkey will not express willingness to go to court. Turkey will come to court only when it understands that not going is even worse than going.

A few years ago they categorically denied the fact of genocide, but everything changed. They began speaking about bilateral massacre and pain. Public opinion contributed to such a change of the viewpoint. The same is in the case of the territorial issue. When Turkey clearly sees that it has no alternative and can no longer deny that such a dispute does not exist, it will definitely come to court.

Here it should be mentioned that once Turkey itself recommended going to court on the issue of genocide, however.

Yes, but then it also kept silence. In reality, recognition of the genocide has nothing to do with the territorial reparation. Land ownership by Armenians is easier to prove through the court than occurrence of genocide.

Let’s assume that demands are met. What will happen to those living in that territory and their rights? 

They must continue living; the issue is in their citizenship. Do those territories become the territories of the Republic of Armenia? Is sovereignty transferred to Armenia or not? I have never put such a question… I have always spoken about some rights of the Republic of Armenia to be stipulated, which is more intermediate.

Even if the sovereignty is transferred, this does not necessarily mean that those living in that territory must get the RA citizenship.

The problem can be solved by a simple calculation ... The ones who want to leave that territory, they will do, but the international community must create settlements for them in other territories in the face of Turkey. Secondly, they can continue living and maintaining the citizenship of Turkey. Thirdly, they can be stateless persons, participate in the local but not in the federal elections, otherwise it will not be the Republic of Armenia.

We must return to the state which was nearly implemented on the eve of the First World War. The Armenian-populated territories were divided into two bodies with the involvement of the Europeans. Wilsonian Armenia should be through the creation of a new form of administration in the territory, preferably led by the same European bodies.

If Turkey does not approach to the issue emotionally, but rather look at the issue pragmatically, then it will benefit from it. But is Turkey ready to give rights to Armenians and the rest…?

Turkish political figures have been recently repeating that the Armenians can go back and live there. They will never go in such conditions. Create an international management system and give guarantees to life and property ... It is clear that few people will go there from the USA, but there will be definitely many people coming from Russia and Middle East to settle there. 

The territories we are speaking about are also often discussed by Kurds and are even called Kurdistan…

The Kurds should understand that this option is more beneficial for them. Not Armenians or Turks but they will mostly benefit, because they must continue living there and their life will substantially improve and there will be no Turkish pressure.

[1] Former Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Canada (2000-2006).

[2] Wilsonian Armenia refers to the boundary configuration of the First Republic of Armenia in the Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920).

[3] Think Tank created by Ara Papyan in Yerevan in 1999.

Armenian genocide : recognition and reparations


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