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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech on the commemoration of the Genocide of Pontian Greeks and Armenians

“Reverend Representative of His Beatitude Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Hieronymos

Dear Ministers,

Members of Parliament,

Leader of the Union of Centrists’ party,

Your Excellence Mr. Ambassador of Armenia to Greece,

Your Excellence Mr. Deputy Speaker of the Armenian Parliament,

Madame Representative of the Region of Attica,

Your Eminence Bishop of the Orthodox Armenians of Greece,

Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff, Lieutenant General Vasileios Tellidis, first Pontian Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff,

Chief of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff Lieutenant General Mr. Christos Vaitsis,

Representatives of Chiefs of Security Authorities,

Mayors,

Generals, Admirals,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I came here deeply touched and well aware of the historical burden that this day encompasses, this day of commemoration, sorrow, grief, anger, yet a day that shows our nation the way that it ought to follow.

Today, we commemorate the victims of the devastation of dissimilarity in the nationality, culture, ideology and religion. We are here today, to pay homage in order to keep in memory all those people who shed a lot of blood in an inestimable and disproportional manner for dignity and freedom.  

The Greek and the Armenian nations have been registered and connected in history with close ties of friendship. Over these millennia, we walk by each other having experienced terrible facts which, after all, did not manage to make us surrender and today we enjoy the goods of Democracy and Freedom. These goods support the excellent background of our bilateral relations. Besides, Greece was one of the first countries that recognized Armenia after its independence in 1991.

The genocide of Greek Pontians and Armenians remains as one of the cruelest crimes of the previous century in our collective memory, yet as a crime for which justice has not been done after so many years.

In our memories, of course, we still keep alive the Assyrians too and those nations which were slaughtered by the same knife.

Since 1909 to 1923, the Young Turks massively killed more than 350,000 Greek locals of Pontus and 1.5 million Armenians and forced the rest of them leave their homes.

In this combat, unprecedented actions of self-sacrifice took place which created valuable hopes for the dignity and civilization of the absent humanity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Today we knee with awe before the sacred light that the death of so many thousands of innocent souls emits. We are shocked by the atrocity of the Genocide and we are filled with repulsion due to the fact that so many years later Turkey still distorts the facts and keeps its rigid position of denying the crime and concealing the historical truth.

Turkey that is supposed to pursue a course of democratization still ignores human rights. The article 301 of the constitution that provides for criminal prosecution of anyone who insults Turkey is a real example of how our neighboring country perceives the principles and values of modern European civilization.
 
The revival of the new ottoman vision is more obvious than ever. Probably, it seems useful to global geopolitical agents but in the future it will be a factor of destabilization. Unfortunately, the concepts of the Pan-turanistic doctrine still exist and an example of their application is the occupation of Cyprus.

But the dark pages of history, with the Jewish holocaust, the slaughter of the Kurds, the page of the genocide of Pontian Greeks and Armenians, as well as Assyrians becomes even darker when the victims have not been attributed their moral retaliation.

Crimes against entire nations cannot be written off. The souls of the dead will never rest if justice is not done. Justice would be to admit the responsibility and to express a brave apology for actions that led innocent people to devastation.

The issue is not just emotional, yet an issue of dignity for all humanity. In other cases, an apology was expressed and justice was done. How is a historical immunity possible for the crimes committed in the genocides of Pontians and Armenians. An apology would redeem the Turkish people from the burden of collective guilt. The same did also all those who apologized and honoured the victims’ memory.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

May 19 is a day of commemoration, honour and debt.

It is, therefore, time to start recognizing this contribution and honour the memory of approximately 350,000 Greeks of Pontus and 1.5 million Armenians who fell as victims of a cruel genocide. They taught and spread civilization, yet they were slaughtered. They were chased out and left their homes. They made their communities prosper but they dealt with a disaster.

Whoever survived became refugees in foreign places and were forgotten by their own homeland. Who came back, the mothers and fathers of most of you, brought a piece of land, an image and everlasting memories with them to the country. All of them, no matter where they went, they kept their deep love for Greece which finally embittered them.

This is the truth.

The recognition came 70 years late by the Greek Parliament that voted unanimously (February 1994) the declaration of the 19th of May, the day when Mustafa Kemal debarked in Samsun as a Day of Commemoration of the Genocide of Greeks in Asia Minor’s Pontus.

It is important, on a day like this, not to forget. It is important, every day, to remember the burden that we undertook, an obligation of honour to people who died in order to remain Greeks and Christians.

It is important for peoples to know their History. And the history of the Pontian Greeks is a part of the historical course of Greeks, an important part of our History that finally must be incorporated in the schoolbook and taught from one generation to the next one.
 
It is a memory that does not create feelings of hate. Because our civilization, our ethos and principles do not seek for revenge; It is just for us to be able to form a new era which will not be based on barbarism, but on the democratic values of mutual respect and peoples’ brotherhood.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Greece and Armenia, across their history, have undoubtedly experienced the facts of the genocides imposed by a common ruler. These sacrifices stress and mark a historical responsibility and an unfulfilled moral and political obligation which is also mentioned in this event, part of a series of events which we decided with my counterpart Seyran Ohanyan during my last visit to Armenia.

I would like, from this floor, to express the address of the President of the Republic Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos who unfortunately could not be with us today because he is in Thessaloniki, but of all Greeks as well.

I would like to thank in particular the Alternate Minister of National Defence Dimitris Vitsas, the General Secretary of the Ministry of National Defence, the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, the Chiefs of the General Staffs, Officers, NCOs, men and women of the Armed Forces for the preparation of all these commemoration events for the homage to be paid.

I call you all to continue our struggle together for the internationalization of the genocide of the two people.

Let the memory of the victims of this tragedy be eternal”.

The commemoration was attended by the Minister of Interior and Administrative Reconstruction Panagiotis Kouroumplis, the Alternate Minister of National Defence Dimitris Vitsas, the Alternate Minister of Finance Tryfon Alexiadis, the Deputy Minister Terens Kouik, the Leader of the Union of Centrists’ party Vasilis Leventis and the Chief of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff Lieutenant General Christos Vaitsis.

The cosmonaut Theodoros Yurchikhin – Grammatikopoulos, Ms. Elisavet Alexandridou, the Deputy Speaker of the Armenian Parliament Eduard Sharmazanov, the Chairman of the International Federation of Pontian Greeks  Giorgos Parharidis, the Professor of History of the University of Western Macedonia Konstantinos Fotiadis, soprano Sonia Theodoridou, the Armenian National Committee, the Pan-Pontian Federation of Greece and Paralympics medalist Grigoris Polychronidis.