We talked to Ruben Safrastyan, the Director of Armenian National Academy of Sciences Institute of Oriental Studies, about Pope Francis' visit to Armenia, in the framework of the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia.
June 24-26, Pope Francis visited Armenia. During his visit, he talked
about the Armenian Genocide and conveyed important messages
concerning the normalization of the relations between Turkey
and Armenia. We talked to Ruben Safrastyan, the Director of Armenian
National Academy of Sciences Institute of Oriental Studies, about
Pope Francis' visit to Armenia, in the framework of the normalization
of relations between Turkey and Armenia. We also mentioned the
absence of General Vicar of Patriarch Aram Ateşyan in the group of
religious leaders who gathered together for Pope's visit.
“It will make the process of worldwide recognition of the genocide faster”
Ruben Safrastyan assessed Pope Francis' use of terms “genocide” and “disaster” to define what happened to Armenians in the beginning of 21. century during his visit to Armenia: “I think that these two terms have different meanings. For Armenians, Great Disaster (medz yeğern) is a term referring to the disaster that befell on them. On the other hand, genocide is a legal and academic term, which requires a certain punishment for the committed crime. That is why Pope's use of the term 'genocide' is really important.”
Thinking that Pope Francis' statements will be influential in the process of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Safrastyan stated, “It should be emphasized that the Pope is the leader of all Catholics in the world, as well as an important figure in civil society and even in politics. Thus, I think that his recognition of the Armenian Genocide will make the process of worldwide recognition of the genocide faster.”
“The conditions must be abandoned”
Answering the question concerning the possible effects of Pope's statements on the relations between Turkey and Armenia, Safrastyan said: “Pope Francis, in his statements, made an open call for constituting peace and starting normalization. And we hope that Turkish government will consider Pope's calls, because I think that the relations or lack of relations between Turkey and Armenia stems from Turkey's policies. Armenia has repeatedly stated that they are ready for normalization unconditionally. On the other hand, Turkey lays down conditions.”
While people were talking about Pope Francis' statements on the genocide, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement in no time. The Ministry condemned the visit and emphasized that Pope's statements don't contribute to the peace and stability in the region. Assessing this development, Safrastyan said: “About bilateral relations, I don't think that Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs would change its policies after Pope's statements. Changing the policies about Armenia means abandoning the conditions and building unconditional diplomatic relations with Armenia. And it would result in opening the border with Armenia.” However, Safrastyan also added that he doesn't see any traces of such a change in the current policies of Turkey.
Aram Ateşyan's letter to President Erdoğan, which he wrote after Bundestag passed the Armenian Genocide resolution, made the Armenian society angry. Armenians protested Ateşyan, who was planning to be in Armenia during Pope's visit. Following these reactions, Aram Ateşyan said that he canceled his plans for visiting Armenia. On this issue, Safrastyan said: “I think that our Vicar General of the Patriarch of Turkey should have been in Armenia, while all religious leaders were there."