PRESS RELEASE Wales-Armenia Solidarity Contact : E. Williams Cardiff, Wales Tel : 07870267447 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Speech by His Excellency Vahe Gabrielian, Ambassador, at the Unveiling of the Memorial to the Victims of the Armenian Genocide at the Temple of Peace, Cardiff, 3rd November 2007
Your Graces, My Lord, Reverend fathers, Ladies and Gentlemen
This is a very special day for us. This is a very special day for the British Armenian Community, for the people of Armenia, Armenians in many other countries and a special day for the Welsh people. I am not the one to speak on behalf of the Welsh, our hosts have already spoken and others will still speak later on, but I am sure that making this day special for us, they have made it special for themselves as well.
When one thinks about the meaning of this day, there are some obvious things to say that come to mind immediately. It is very important that the Genocide of Armenians be internationally recognized and condemned, that ultimately Turkey recognizes the hideous crime against humanity and apologies, establishes relations with Armenia and pledges to build its relations pursuant to international standards and values of contemporary, progressive and democratic family of nations. It is, of course, a fact that on the British Isles the Welsh authorities are in the vanguard of standard bearers of human values and the Welsh people should be thanked and commended for their solidarity with a just cause. These have been already said and will, I believe, be said in the coming addresses and many more times in the future.
One may ask, however, why in Wales of all places on these isles ? Of course, the lobbyists have spared no effort or energy. Nevertheless, I would think that the real reason why this happens here is the depth of similarities between our peoples. It is because of the values that we share. And certainly there is more common between us that meet the eye. We look at the Welsh and see a nation of arts and talents, heroes and thinkers, of difficult history, yet proud sons and we realise that this is what we at least think of ourselves too. From the 12th century to our days Wales has been celebrating the National Eisteddfod of Wales, the oldest and largest festival of culture in Europe. We, Armenians, have been celebrating the Day of Interpreters since the 5th, being probably the only ones to do that, at least for that long. Our national hero, the hero of our Epic Poem is David of Sassun, who shares a name with your patron saint, St. David. However similarities like this are too many to list and much more will emerge once we get to know each other better. THAT, we certainly want to do. Forgive me the pun, but who would not like to be equal partners and friend with a nation one of whose talented sons (Robert Recorde) invented the equals sign ?
Some people may see these words as sheer politics and a formal paying of tribute. It is not, because what is happening today in Cardiff is truly a groundbreaking event. A groundbreaking event not only because it breaks through the coldness of official shyness for recognition, the concern to upset a strategic ally by calling the things by their names ; it breaks through cold-minded reasoning and calculation as what should be offset with what ; and gives way to what comes from the heart. And today’s most important lesson is that today we announced that the hearts of the Welsh and Armenian peoples beat on the same frequency and accelerate to express their feelings at the same impulses. This particular instance of historical injustice has made our hearts react the same way. And this is the most important part. It is important because from now on every Welshman or guest of your capital city passing by the consecrated cross-stone in the grounds of the Temple of Peace will think of Armenians and of the special links between our nations and thin and appreciate why this monument is here. The media in Armenia today already spoke of this event. They have been mentioning it for some time and the ripples that this event has created will travel a long distance through the Armenian and other media throughout the world to the heart of every Armenian and every person who feels they should do right in their lives. In an interview of mine to one of leading national newspapers in Armenia, published today, I have already thanked Wales-Armenia Solidarity, John Torossyan and Elian Williams for their dedication and resolve to see this wonderful initiative to the end. I have thanked the authorities of Cardiff for the permission and unswerving support to erect the cross-stone on a piece of public land and the entire Welsh nation for their assistance and understanding. It is with greatest pleasure and humbleness that I do it again here. Thank you. Thank you to the Welsh Assembly, President Lord Dafydd and to the Church of Wales. Special thanks to Stephen Thomas of the Welsh International Centre and the Temple of Peace trustees for their continuing cooperation and help. And I would also like to thank everyone who takes part in today’s ceremony, from organizers to performers and the audience and supporters.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am not going to lecture you about the Genocide of Armenians. Much has been said about it. Also, here and today there is no need to preach the converted. I would, however, like to state the following. The insistence of Armenians all over the globe and the consistent policies of the Republic of Armenia that the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire be recognized as Genocide are not a sign of hostility or of refusal to talk. On the contrary, given Turkey’s vehement yet fruitless denial campaign, they are the only ways to reconciliation.
We are trying hard to understand Turkey’s logic of exerting so much effort to abort the increasingly unstoppable recognition process. It cannot. It is dependent neither on Turkey, nor Armenia or the Armenian Diaspora. It is time the opponents realized two things : 1.People throughout the world support the recognition efforts of Armenians not because of lobbying but because they believe it is the right thing to do and 2. The international recognition is a momentum-gathering process of its own that will only stop when it reaches its culmination, its ultimate logical objective - the recognition. Following the recent approval by the US Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Genocide Bill, House Resolution 106, we have seen an unprecedented campaign of misinformation, outright threats and blackmailing by the Turkish authorities and use of force and uncivilized behaviour by Turkish mobs. The result has been that in places where they previously shunned the issue, they now talk about it, people who did not know, now ask questions, papers that refused to publish a paragraph on the subject now allocate pages, all possible TV and radio stations discussed the event or at least reported it.
The stronger the Turkish denial Campaign grows, the more people condemn it. This is a guaranteed way to recognition. Had Turkey recognized it itself, before many others did, it would have saved itself a lot of embarrassment and paved an easier route to reconciliation.
There is one last thing I would like to mention. Every day I come across statements by Turkish officials of various calibre that the Turkish Prime Minister proposed in a letter to the Armenian President to set up a commission of historians to discuss the issue and allegedly, still awaits an answer. Apart from the well observed trick that any Turkish initiative to demonstrate some goodwill comes in a moment when a Genocide Resolution is ripe either at the US Congress or some other important institution, with the sole aim of derailing it, I must declare, that all these statements are, most often knowingly, intended to mislead the public, including the Turkish one. The truth is that the answer to that letter was sent soon after it was received. President Kocharyan said that we do not think that inter-governmental relations and issues of paramount importance like this could or should be left to historians.
Once politicians and diplomats establish formal relations and formal grounds for a dialogue, then we are ready to talk about anything. We do not of course question the fact of the Genocide but we are prepared to talk about the ways of overcoming its consequences. Could one expect us to discuss anything, if have no diplomatic relations, if the border is closed and if no-one in Turkey can even utter the word Genocide without being punished ? How then can this offer be seen as a serious step towards reconciliation, moreover, be advocated as such ? For expressing a dissenting from the official position opinion people in that country are either prosecuted under the infamous article 301 of their Penal Code or simply shot dead on their doorstep when they speak about reconciliation.
But once again, today’s event is not about Turkey. It is about respecting the memory of the million and a half innocent people who perished suffering terrible tortures because of their religion and nationality. The event is about the strengthening of understanding, cooperation and friendship between the Welsh and Armenian peoples.
To both notions I bow my head.
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