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International Conference “The Armenian Genocide and International Law”

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On Wednesday, 2 September 2009, opened the international conference, “The Armenian Genocide and International Law” organized by Haigazian University and the Armenian National Committee - Middle East in the hall of the First Armenian Evangelical Church, Beirut.
Among the capacity audience were present Minister Alain Tabourian, representing the President of the Republic, H.E. General Michel Suleiman, M.P. Hagop Pakradounian, representing the Speaker of the Parliament, H.E. Mr. Nabih Berry, Minister Jean Oghasabian, representing the President of the Council of Ministers, H.E. Mr. Fouad Sanioura, M.P. Sebouh Kalpakian, representing the appointed President of the Council of Ministers, H.E. Saad Rafic Hariri, M.P. Shant Chinchinian, ambassadors of  the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Uruguay, the Czech Republic, President of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, Rev. Megrdich Karagozian, Prelate of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Lebanon, Bishop Kegham Khatcherian, the president of the Armenian Protestant community in Syria, Rev. Haroutune Selimian, representatives of embassies, Armenian and Lebanese Political Parties, cultural associations, previous M.P.s and ministers, religious leaders, and guests of the conference.
The ceremony started with the Lebanese National Anthem after which Haigazian University’s public relations director Mira Yardemian welcomed the audience and declared the official opening of the two-day conference, noting that, “this conference is being held at a time when world politics and indeed the relations between Turkey and Armenia are witnessing significant change, a season of breaking news.” Yardemian added that more than 20 scholars and international journalists are present from the USA, Canada, Europe, Armenia, Turkey, the Gulf, and the Middle East, to join the local community to establish a solid step in the direction of addressing the consequences of the Armenian Genocide and promote a fair perspective through international law.
In his message, the President of Haigazian University Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian emphasized that “the Armenian Genocide is not simply an Armenian problem but essentially an international burden.” Haidostian added that, “the victim carries a strong sense of ownership of pain, but human civilization cannot be considered as highly developed if it does not embrace a sense of advocacy for the victimized.” Talking of genocide Haidostian drew the attention to four key points. First, “that injustices of any nation against any other nation are part of the same human manifestation of evil that require joint, and effective global action.” Second, “that this international conference convenes in a country, Lebanon, which continues to be a unique land of dialogue and culture despite the ever-present seeds of misunderstanding.” Third, giving the example of Haigazian University, and more specifically, giving the name of Armenag Haigazian, a victim of the Armenian Genocide, Haidostian emphasized, “our calling has been and continues to be standing up for new life not only for Armenians but especially for our Arab brothers and sisters, and really, all people of the world.” Finally, Haidostian explained that given the fact that this conference is being held at a university it reminds us that no academic community can be value-neutral. “A university may be a neutral medium of dialogue, but it is essentially a forum of passion for deeper knowledge, responsibility, and enlightenment.”
In her message, the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee - Middle East, Vera Yacoubian talked about the role the Armenian National Committee is playing to highlight the important role of the Armenian community throughout the Middle East and its coexistence with it surrounding Arab and Islamic communities and the efforts it invests in disclosing the Armenian question with all its historical, political, and judicial implications to the public opinion. Yacoubian hoped that this conference would provide a significant breakthrough in analyzing the Armenian Genocide given the fact that it brings together a large group of specialists in the arena of genocide and international law and because that this conference is taking place in a region which is still suffering the its Ottoman inherited values.
Regarding Turkish-Armenian relations, Yacoubian noted “we cannot ignore or disregard the sequence of these recent developments, and address these pending issues, without resolving past history between the two nations. Yacoubian added that “indeed the Turkish-Armenian relations carry the heavy burden of the Armenian genocide, and there is a high level of doubt and mistrust regarding Turkish intentions”.
Yacoubian concluded by questioning that in the context of these developments, what are Turkey’s responsibilities towards the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide and the future of the Armenian Question.
The guest speaker for the opening session, the President of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus, H.E. Marios Garoyian expressed his gratitude to the organizing bodies, expressing that his presence here is driven by his country’s “commitment to international law, peace, security and stability, but also their determination to continue to condemn, on every possible occasion, any infringement of International Law by acts of Genocide.” Mr. Garoyian reiterated the fact that “on the one hand, governments and parliaments should act together and closely cooperate in terms of assessing the progress made with regard to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and identify measures to be taken at all levels. On the other hand, it is the States that must cooperate for the prevention and punishing of those responsible for the crime of Genocide.”
Garoyian questioned the role that Turkey is playing as mediator, peacemaker and peacekeeper, in the wider Middle East, while Turkey continues to deny the truth of the crimes perpetrated by its Ottoman predecessors.
Garoyian noted that Cyprus has always stood by the side of the Armenian people in regard to their struggle for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In 1975 the Cyprus House of Representatives was one of the first Parliaments in the world to adopt a resolution calling the atrocities inflicted upon the Armenians in and around 1915 as genocide. Garoyian added that Cyprus and its people have many more reasons to understand the injustice of the Armenian Genocide due to, “the implementation of Turkey’s policy of ethnic cleansing against Cyprus’ population during the 1974 invasion and the continuing occupation of 37% of Cyprus’ territory.”
The sessions of the conference continue till September 4, and include three public lectures.

Mira Yardemian
Public Relations Director
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