Vahan Hovhannesian seeks to restore checks and balances in Armenia’s governance
Calls for an Armenian-Georgian union
by Vincent Lima
Published: Saturday January 26, 2008
Peace with Turkey
"Turkey is another matter," Mr. Hovhannesian continued. "We understand very well that the geopolitical reality that has taken shape over decades cannot be changed easily. And our issue today is not to snatch something from Turkey. Our issue is to have our just cause recognized. When it is recognized, and first of all Turkey recognizes the Genocide, this will bring us unavoidably to the idea of reparations. The idea of reparations can develop in various ways. Our issue, then, because we'd like to resolve these issues peacefully, is to develop the idea of reparations in the right direction."
Mr. Hovhannesian argued that Turks as well as Armenians could benefit from a just resolution of the Turkish-Armenian conflict. Armenians must, he argued, "operate in such a flexible and smart manner with the powers of the world and with Turkey, so that the Turkish people and the Turkish state begin to understand that warming relations with the Armenian people and the Armenian state also benefits them.
"The future will show which points of the ARF program can be achieved in what order and at what time as part of those reparations," he continued. "The position of Armenia in recent years, efforts toward the recognition of the Genocide worldwide, are having very positive results. But if the next president is not Dashnaktsakan," he warned, "we cannot be sure what direction these processes will take and whether we will not experience retreat, which can take us to a dead-end."
Mr. Hovhannesian also noted that the "president takes an oath, upon inauguration, to serve the security of the Republic of Armenia." He added that he would have to work closely with other political forces in Armenia's National Security Council.
The lessons of history
What keeps Mr. Hovhannesian up at night? "There are the issues of today. And then there are the mistakes that have been made in history and what Armenia's destiny would have been if in the 18th century we hadn't done this, and in the 19th century we hadn't done that, and in the early 20th century we had done this, etc. But history is worth nothing if you don't take lessons from it. I take one big lesson from all this: All our shortcomings come from a lack of faith in our own power, and from a lack of willingness to fight for our own rights.
"The difference between a people and a nation is not well understood among us," Mr. Hovhannesian said. "The people are those who live today. The nation is also those who came before, with all the values they created, their legacy, and those who have not yet been born. The nation is the people in history."
He said he would like to see his National Security Council, or a similar body, take the long view. "We, unfortunately, live with today's problems. We don't have a clear picture of tomorrow's challenges because there isn't in Armenia the forum for looking to that future.
Not all the problems in Armenia "have to do with errors in the high echelons of government. Some are rooted in our mentality," he said. "But we will be able to make a difference over five years: a new political culture, greater respect for the self. We have a nation that has constantly been divided into communities artificially; every citizen continues to live for the interests of his community: his family, his extended family, perhaps his village, his compatriotic union. But the consciousness of a common interest is what you must give the people, helping them understand that your personal interest can be realized only when the common interest is moving forward."