Turkish Foreign Minister's Defense Of Armenian Massacres -nyt191612

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Turkish Foreign Minister's Defense of Armenian Massacres


(Published by New York Times Company, Times Square, New York, N. Y.)

The Turkish Foreign Minister, Halil Bey, in an interview with The Associated Press representative at Vienna, Oct. 25, attempted to throw the blame of his Government's massacres of Armenian men, women, and children upon the Armenians themselves, on the ground that they had risen in revolt when the Russians invaded the country. He said:

THE Young Turks have always looked upon the Armenians as a valuable assert to the Turkish Empire. The fact is, we needed them. The country's commerce was largely in their hands; and as farmers the Armenians have a great value. We did not look upon them as valuable chattels, however. We were willing to give them an equal share in the Government, which we did, as is shown by the fact that before the outbreak of the war we had a large number of Armenians in the Chamber of Deputies and also several Senators and a Minister. Nearly all the Vice Ministers were Armenians, because we recognized the ability of the Armenians and were ready to give them their political rights in the tenancy of a proportionate number of public offices.

After the revolution all went well for a time, and the Young Turks hoped they had finally found a solution to the problem which had vexed the old regime in Turkey for many years and had retarded the progress of the country. The Balkan war, however, caused the Armenians to again take up their separatist ideals. Committees formed an organization with the intention of securing for the Armenians an autonomous government.

I think I would be the last man to deny a people self-government, but the case of the Armenians is one where this must be done. The Armenians, spread throughout Asia Minor and Southern Russia, are merely a majority in the districts usually designated as Armenian. Armenian autonomy, therefore, would lead to the loss of the independence of the other Ottoman races. Under these conditions even the Young Turks were opposed to the Armenian plan, but in justice they wanted to give the Armenians a fuller share on the Government, which was done. and even worst traducers cannot deny that.

When the war broke out we knew exactly what the Armenians were doing. More bombs, rifles, ammunition, and money had been brought into the country and their organization was made even more perfect. I was then President of the Chamber of Deputies and was very fond of the Armenian members, as I had always been a friend of that race. So I called the Armenian representatives together and asked what they intended doing. At the end of the conversation I told them I could sympathize with their ideals and had always done so as long as they were not entirely separatist.

"Gentleman," I said, "I fully understand your position and hope that you understand ours. We have engaged in a war in which we may go down. That will be your opportunity to make arrangements with the Entente, but bear in mind that the ottoman Government will apply the most severe measures if you act against the Turks before you know we are against the Turks before you know we are conquered. Make your plans so that you can meet the Entente Powers with clean hands, which you can do by supporting us so far and no further than the law demands. I think the Entente statesmen will see the correctness of such conduct and will recognize your claim to autonomy. You can then take up the work where we left off and in which I wish you every success, but bear in mind that we are not gone yet, and that the slightest false move on your part will bring trouble to all Armenians. Sit quiet and let us try this issue. When you are sure we have lost, go over to the Entente and get from them all you can."

[Enver Pasha, the leader of the Young Turks, Halil Bey said, called in the Armenian patriarch one day and told him the same thing, but despite this, he said, the Armenians rose when the Russians invaded Asia Minor, and the Turkish Government took the measures which had been outlined to the Armenian leaders beforehand. The Turkish Foreign Minister said that the Armenian organization made it impossible to confine the steps taken against the Armenians to a single locality in rebellion, because the organization was so perfect that only a sweeping measure at the first hint of an uprising could meet the situation. Halil Bey continued:]

I will say that the loss to the Ottoman Empire say that the loss to the Ottoman Empire through the deportation of the Armenians has been immense. The Armenian is able and industrious, and therefore, valuable in the economic scheme, but what could be done? We were at war and obliged, therefore, to employ every means to make secure our own position, which was betrayed so basely through our confidence.* * *We stand or fall with the Central Powers, and at present there is nothing to indicate that any of our troops will fail -- not so long as we have Germany to head the combination.

The German cannot be beaten in this war, because with the spirit to win they combine an unusually high ability as organizers. Germany's will to win and her organization are for Turkey every guarantee for success and victory. A people of 70,000,000 imbued with such a spirit is unconquerable.* * *

We in Turkey are one with the Central Government in the determination to defend our national integrity. Though we have been shorn in recent years of much of our territory, there remains enough of the Empire in point of extent and wealth of soil to build up a prosperous State, in which opportunity will come to all. That is the program of our Party of Union and Progress.

A hard copy of this article or hundreds of others from the time of the Armenian Genocide can be found in The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From The American Press: 1915-1922