By Heghine Manukyan

On the occasion of Turkish Premier Recep Erdogan’s visit to Lebanon, as well as in connection with the Armenian-Turkish protocols, the Agency interviewed Mr. Sebouh Kalpakian, a Lebanese MP and Vice-Chairman of the Central Office, Social Democrat Hunchakian Party (SDHP).

Question: Mr. Kalpakian, as a member of the Armenian community in Lebanon, what is you opinion of the Turkish Premier’s visit to Lebanon?

Answer: The Turkish Premier’s visit has two sides. If his visit is viewed in the context of Lebanon, it can be called rather successful. During his visit, Erdogan was making most balanced statements, without missing chances to note Turkey should extend a helping hand to Lebanon in resolving the country’s problems. He participated in the opening ceremonies of a school and a hospital constructed on the Turkish Government’s funds. A number of agreements were signed.

Besides, the Lebanese Armenians had rather hard days – both as Lebanese citizens and as ethnic Armenians. Not everyone was could favorably accept our position. The situation is most difficult in Lebanon, the country is going through crucial times, and the Armenian community’s ambitions (actions of protest) were misunderstood by many. We were told the following: “Decide on whether you are Armenians or Lebanese.” However, some forces supported us. An unprecedented think happened: the three leading parties we printed and put up posters in the streets, demanding a fair settlement of the Hay Dat (Armenian Cause) issue. However, the night before the Turkish Premier’s visit, Lebanese law-enforcers took the posters off. Earlier, every April 24 we put up similar posters, but this time, due to the Government’s interference, they have for the first time been taken off. In any case, our common aim is to remind Lebanon, as well as the entire world that by paying a visit the Turkish premier cannot make Lebanese, including Armenians, forget their problems. We must remain committed to Hay Dat ideals.

You know that Turkey is now maintaining close ties with Syria, Iran and Lebanon. The three states have always respected the Armenian people, without missing a chance to commend it. During the Turkish Premier’s visit I called on the three states to make use their ties and persuade the Turkish Government to apologize to the Armenian people – for the wall to be destroyed, and for us to close this chapter in our history and open a new one.

If the leaders of the states can step in, in Armenians’ favor, may they do so, and we will be grateful.

Question: Turkey, in the person of its leaders, has lately made statements in favor of Armenia and Armenians. On November 26, in Switzerland, Turkish President Abdullah Gul stated Turkey was determined to put the Armenian-Turkish protocols into practice and, for the process to succeed, expects the Armenian President to remain committed to his style as a leader and statesman. What conclusion can be drawn from Turkey’s behavior?

Answer: Life has shown the Armenian-Turkish process has remained on paper, and the Armenian-Turkish protocols will not get an all-Armenian “yes vote.” Without national unity, the State cannot act by itself. The same can be said about Turkey. The situation was tense there after the Armenian-Turkish protocols were signed. Turkey decided to launch a new policy of settling conflicts with its neighbors. With this end in view, it has been able to resolve its problems with Syria and open a new chapter in its relations with Iran and Lebanon. Turkey is obviously seeking peaceful relations with Armenia, at least for Europe to see it in a certain light, but there is an obstacle.

Question: What is the obstacle? Especially in the context of the protocols that guarantee the relations?

Answer: I would like to ask the same question. Why was the ratification process frozen? Who is hindering it? What happened? What were the reasons why the process was not developed? The Armenian President is supposed to answer the questions. We have the answers: at first they claimed the Nagorno-Karabakh problem was an obstacle to ratification. I think that turkey planned to get concessions on Nagorno-Karabakh by means of the protocols and thus calm down Azerbaijan. Now it is time for the Armenian president to shed light on the obscure aspects of the Armenian-Turkish process and explain the reasons why thing went wrong.

What has changed? Why is Turkey calling on the Armenian authorities to act? We doubt that they are demanding concessions on Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia. Armenia is in a difficult situation, as it is up to Nagorno-Karabakh to decide. Under the circumstances, Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh authorities may have disagreements as well. Even if the protocols are put into practice after the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been settled, we will not accept it because of some points, particularly the one of a group of historians. The Armenian authorities are thus ignoring the efforts the Diaspora has been making for 98 years. They are seeking a compromise with Turkey over our heads. This is an insult for the Armenian Diaspora, particularly for traditional parties.

Question: Before signing the Armenian-Turkish protocols, the Armenian President made a pan-Armenian tour to convince the Armenians the protocols did not contain any anti-Armenian wordings. Do you think it is worth making another tour and explaining to the Armenians in all the parts of the world the reasons why Armenia suspended the ratification process? May be you, the Diaspora, will make such a demand?

Answer: When we feel the work at the protocols has resumed, you can be sure Lebanon will be the first to respond. The Armenia President has made a tour of the Diaspora, probed into the sentiments of the Armenian communities and made sure of the disapproval of the protocols. He explained to us that the approval of the protocols must be gradual, but life has shown the opposite. Surely, the protocols contain implications, which are not mentioned by anyone. This is the reason why the ratification was suspended.

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