January 6, 1984
"It is impossible to erase the marks of the genocide with which you were struck. This must be inscribed in the memory of mankind and this sacrifice must simultaneously serve as a lesson to the young and as the will to survive."
Visiting the Isere*
The president of the Republic paid homage to the Armenian community
On Saturday, January 6, Mr. François Mitterrand paid a surprise visit to the Isere. The head of state visited an appliance manufacturing plant in Bourgoin-Jalieu, then, in Vienne, whose mayor is National Assembly President Mr. Louis Mermaz, he met with that town's Armenian community which had gathered to celebrate Armenian Christmas.
In Vienne, after a quick walk around the market which surrounds City Hall, Mr. Mitterrand addressed the Armenian community gathered in the Mayoralty. The Armenian Cause has sometimes been "taken off track" because of violence, underlined the head of state, who considers that "there can be no misunderstanding between Armenians and France". "France is a land of welcome and hospitality" he said. "The sons of those who have suffered so much know well that they have been completely integrated into the French community. "Recalling the 1915 genocide, Mr. Mitterrand added: "It is impossible to erase the marks of the genocide with which you were struck. This must be inscribed in the memory of mankind and this sacrifice must simultaneously serve as a lesson to the young and as the will to survive, so that all will know throughout time that this people does not belong to the past, but is truly of the present and has a future. " "There can be no misunderstanding," he repeated alluding to the "few elements who, having generally come from abroad, want to practice towards France whose sole responsibility is that of having been friendly acts of violence, which make all of us suffer. This is not an acceptable method. I will never accept it, " he said.
[Mr. Mitterrand's comments which as of late morning Monday had not yet generated a Turkish reaction are notable, because they mark the first time a French head of state has taken such a clear stand on the genocide of which the Armenians were the victims. However, they do not constitute a novelty in the French position. In theJournal Officiel of last July 11, Mr. Cheysson had, in a written response to a member of parliament, regretted "the Turkish government's refusal to recognize as genocide the deportations and massacres inflicted upon the Armenian community of the Ottoman Empire." The minister of external affairs had however added that "present day Turkey should not be considered responsible for the actions of the government of the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian community."]
Reactions. The Committee for Defense of the Armenian Cause (CDCA) noted on the evening of Saturday, January 7 "with great satisfaction the personal support provided by the president of the Republic to the socialist group of the European Parliament which presented a proposal for a resolution on a political solution to the Armenian question." It recalled that "this resolution notably requests that the Council of Ministers of the EEC "declare the recognition of the 1915 genocide of the Armenian people and convince the government of Turkey of the urgency of instituting a Turco-Armenian political dialogue." The spokesperson for the Armenian National Movement (ANM) Mr. Ararat Toranian declared, via R.M.C. microphone: "For us this is eminently positive... This is a declaration which greatly touched us; this is the first time that a president of the Republic addresses himself so directly to our people. That having been said, the declaration speaks a great deal about genocide, but we regret that the author of this genocide, Turkey, is not named...."
Le Monde (French-language newspaper published in Paris), Tuesday, January 10, 1984, No. 12116.
*Isere is a region in the east-central part of France.