Armenian Foreign Minister Reacts Poorly to Iran’s Denial of Holocaust

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Armenian Foreign Minister Reacts Poorly to Iran’s Denial of Holocaust

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

Dec. 22, 2005

Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian gave an evasive answer last week, when questioned about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated denials of the Jewish Holocaust.

Oskanian’s reply was carried by various wire services, including a lengthy dispatch by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that was titled: "Yerevan Reluctant to Condemn Iranian Leader for Holocaust Denial."

"We have always refrained from evaluating this issue," Oskanian said last week when asked to comment on Pres. Ahmadinejad’s statement that was universally condemned. "We view our relations with Iran only within a bilateral framework. Such issues have never been discussed in our bilateral relations."

The United States, the European Union and even Russia, a close ally of Iran, have strongly condemned the Iranian leader’s denial of the Holocaust. By refusing to condemn Iran’s denial of the Holocaust and indicating that it has not been an issue in the bilateral relations between Armenia and Iran, Oskanian has made Armenia vulnerable to criticism by the international community.

The Armenian Foreign Minister’s response was surprisingly inadequate, particularly since he and his aides had several weeks to reflect on this issue and prepare a better answer than the one he provided. There are three problems with Oskanian’s answer: 1) Describing the denial of the Holocaust as an non-issue in the bilateral relations between Iran and Armenia is showing insensitivity to the denial of Holocaust, a crime that concerns all mankind; 2) Saying that the denial of the Holocaust is unrelated to Iranian-Armenian relations makes it possible for the rest of the world to give the same non-caring response when asked to oppose the Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide; and 3) Not condemning the denial of the Holocaust out of concern for Armenia’s political/economic interests with Iran, undermines Armenia’s own criticism of Israel and the United States. Armenians frequently accuse both of these countries of supporting the denialist position of Turkey on the Armenian Genocide out of consideration for their callous self-interests.

Minister Oskanian may have given an evasive answer to this question for two reasons: 1) Not wishing to offend the Iranian leadership which could lead to the disruption of the critical economic ties between Iran and Armenia; and 2) Wanting to send a message to Israeli leaders, reminding them of their unacceptable support for the Turkish government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide.

Given the above two understandable concerns, it would have been preferable for Minister Oskanian to have worded his answer along the following lines: "While Armenia acknowledges all genocides, including the Holocaust, we are troubled by the fact that some governments not only do not condemn the denial of the Armenian Genocide, but support Turkey’s denialist position."

Such an answer would have been preferable as it would have: 1) Shifted the burden of genocide denial to Israel; 2) Pre-empted Israel and other countries from criticizing Armenia for being insensitive to the denial of the Holocaust; and 3) Denied other nations the excuse of taking an uncaring attitude toward the denial of the Armenian Genocide.

It is noteworthy that Vural Cengiz, the President of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), wasted no time in capitalizing on Oskanian’s comments regarding Iran’s denial of the Holocaust. Cengiz said: "These statements illustrate the hypocrisy of the leadership of the Republic of Armenia, which habitually draws a parallel between the respective fates of Ottoman Armenians during WWI and European Jews during WWII in an effort to boost its claims against Turkey." He went on to say: "Oskanian’s position clearly illustrates how morally corrupt the Armenian leadership is: Not only do they falsify history by comparing the fate of Ottoman Armenians with that of the Jews during the Second World War, but as soon as their economic interests are at stake, they immediately abandon their moral high ground."

Despite the fact that the ATAA’s statement was probably crafted by a highly paid American public relations specialist, Cengiz may not have noticed that he was inadvertently acknowledging that Armenia had the "moral high ground" when comparing the Armenian Genocide to the Jewish Holocaust.

To be sure, Cengiz is devoid of all credibility to criticize Oskanian as the Turkish government continuously denies, in the most outrageous terms, the Armenian Genocide. In this regard, the Iranian leader’s denials of the Jewish Holocaust are no different than the denials of the Armenian Genocide spewed by Turkey’s leaders for the past 90 years! The only difference is that when the Iranian leader denies the Holocaust, the whole world jumps to criticize him, whereas there is a deafening silence when Turkish leaders deny the Armenian Genocide.

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