Report by Harut Sassounian
"One should not keep silent in this case"
Azg, Yerevan, Armenia, in Armenian 10 Mar 04 p 5
BBC Monitoring Service, UK, in English, Mar 11, 2004
The British ambassador's recent remarks on the 1915 Armenian genocide are
false and offensive, says an article reprinted by the Armenian newspaper Azg
from California Courier. The paper interviewed Ambassador Thorda Abbott-Watt
who said that "the British government had condemned the massacres as an
atrocity at the time, and still did, but the evidence was not sufficiently
unequivocal that what took place could be categorized as genocide under the
1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide".
At the same time, the paper criticized the Armenian government for not
reacting to the ambassador's statement. It urged Armenian organizations to
condemn the British government's position and stage demonstrations outside
The following is a text of Harut Sassounian report by Armenian newspaper Azg
on 10 March headlined "One should not keep silent in this case". Subheadings
have been inserted editorially:
On 20 January, during an interview to the Regnum agency in connection with
the first anniversary of her diplomatic posting in Armenia, the British
ambassador to Armenia made a false and offensive statement on the Armenian
Ambassador Thorda Abbott-Watt was reported by Azg newspaper as saying:
"Great Britain accepts that the events of 1915 were mass killings (of the
Armenian population), the responsible for which are the Turks. I see no
problem calling it brutality. It shouldn't have taken place even in the
course of war. But, I do not think that recognizing the events as genocide
would be of much use."
BRITISH ENVOY'S COMMENT
Before writing this column, I sent an e-mail to the British ambassador to
confirm that she was accurately quoted. She responded by saying: "On the
events of 1915, I said words to the effect quoted, but the translation has
come out slightly clumsily. What I said was that I understood the strength
of feeling in Armenia about what happened and that I knew that this was an
issue which still touched people very deeply nearly ninety years on. The
British government had condemned the massacres as an atrocity at the time,
and still did.
But the evidence was not sufficiently unequivocal that what took place could
be categorized as genocide under the 1948 United Nations Convention on
Genocide and that while the debate continued among historians and lawyers,
we believed that there was a role for us in encouraging countries in the
region to look to the future and to work actively for better relations and a
lessening of tension."
In my response to her, I pointed out that I had no quarrel with her
personally, since as ambassador, she was merely expressing the position of
Nevertheless, I inquired if she could explain why the British government
would take the highly offensive and incorrect position that the Armenian
genocide did not fit the UN definition of genocide. I told her that I was
quite familiar with the UN definition, as I had spent 10 years lobbying at
the UN for the acceptance of the Armenian genocide.
In 1985, the UN Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and
Protection of Minorities finally recognized the Armenian genocide as a
genocide, and included it as such in its report on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
I found it absurd that the British government would question the
compatibility of the Armenian genocide with the UN definition, since the
UN itself had taken the position that the Armenian Genocide perfectly fit
its definition of genocide!
It is quite upsetting that any ambassador sitting in Yerevan would have the
audacity to dispute that what happened to the Armenians in 1915 was
NO ARMENIAN REACTION SO FAR
It is even more upsetting that in the past six weeks, not a single Armenian
government official, nor the representative of any political organization,
indeed not a single Armenian has bothered to respond to the ambassador's
insulting words on the Armenian genocide!
By now, there should have been dozens of statements issued by various
Armenian entities, both in Armenia and the diaspora, condemning both the
British ambassador and her government. There should have been daily
demonstrations in front of the British embassy in Yerevan.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry should have delivered a diplomatic note of
protest to the ambassador and put her on notice that the Armenian government
would not tolerate such offensive statements. In a recent interview she gave
to a journalist in Armenia, Ambassador Abott-Watt said: "I like a good
By the time I leave Armenia, I hope I'll be able to make good khorovads." If
the Armenians would react strongly to her deeply injurious statement on the
genocide, before she returns to London, she may also learn that distorting
the facts of the Armenian genocide is highly offensive to Armenians and a
sin against all victims of crimes against humanity. By their silence,
Armenians are simply encouraging the British and others to continue
questioning the facts of the Armenian genocide.
Imagine what would have happened if some ambassador would have been
foolish enough to give a press conference in the middle of Tel Aviv, saying
that the Holocaust was simply "an atrocity" or "a brutality" and did not fit
the UN definition of genocide!
That ambassador would have been kicked out of Israel within 24 hours.
Armenians not only should raise their voices in protest against the British
ambassador, more importantly, they should urge Armenian government
officials and political organizations not to remain silent in the face of
FOR PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC USE ONLY