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Patriarch Receives President of French National Assembly

ISTANBUL (05/02/2005) – His Beatitude Mesrob II, Armenian Patriarch of
Istanbul and All Turkey, received His Excellency Mr. Jean-Louis Debré,
the
President of the French National Assembly, on 4 February 2005, Friday,
at
19:30 hours, in the audience room of the Armenian Patriarchate,
Istanbul,
Turkey. Accompanying the President were the leaders of the French
Opposition
and Mr. Jean-Christophe Peaucelle, the French Consul General in
Istanbul.

The Patriarch greeted Mr. Debré as follows: “It is indeed a great
honour and
pleasure to receive in our Patriarchate the President of the French
National
Assembly. As one of the four hierarchical sees of the worldwide
Armenian
Church, the Patriarchal See of Istanbul, continues to be a witness to
the
Christian Armenian heritage, faith and culture since the year 1461.

Our Patriarchate’s ties with the Republic of France are close. In fact,
the
last Cilician Armenian King, Leo VI Lusignan, is buried in the
Cathedral of
St. Denis in Paris. Most of the Armenians living in France today also
have
their family roots in Anatolia.

Anatolia became the stage for tragic events ninety years ago. It is a
fact
that hundreds of thousands of Armenian citizens lost their lives, and
of the
Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire, only a small proportion was
saved
from extinction. Not only were lives lost, but also a local culture was
uprooted from its natural milieu.

Both Turks and Armenians must now face their common history and must
look
forward to a peaceful coexistence in the present and future world. God
has
brought together the Turkish and Armenian peoples within the same
geographical area, as very close neighbours, and even as members
sometimes
of the same family, whether in Anatolia or in the Caucasus. All those
concerned need to understand that there is no alternative but to live
in
peace and tolerance with each other, and to expend every effort in this
direction.

This is why, together with all the other non-Moslem minorities in
Turkey,
our Patriarchal See and the Turkish Armenian community support the
accession
of Turkey into the European Union. As citizens of Turkey we support
this
process, since all the laws of our country will thus be upgraded; as
non-Moslem minorities we support the process, since it will give us
equal
opportunity before the law; as people of Armenian descent we support
the
process, because it might bring the long-awaited peace not only between
Turkey and Armenia, but also amongst all countries in the region.

It is with these sentiments, that I welcome you once again, reminded of
the
words of the Gospel: ‘Peace on earth and good will amongst men of good
will!
’”

Thanking the Patriarch for his welcoming remarks, Mr. Debré replied
that the
French delegation was interested in whether Moslems and non-Moslems
enjoy
equal opportunity in Turkey, which aspires to become an EU member.
Where are
the non-Moslem clerics trained? Do ethno-religious minorities, and also
minorities not covered by the Lausanne Treaty, enjoy cultural
prerogatives?
Are human rights respected, including those of women, children and the
minorities? How do the people of Turkey regard the non-Moslems within
and
without Turkey? These, Mr. Debré said, were the issues European
parliamentarians were preoccupied with.

Patriarch Mesrob replied that the majority of Turkish citizens support
the
membership of Turkey into the EU, knowing well that such an integration
presupposes much change in mentality and the legal system. Many
important
reforms have been passed through the Turkish National Assembly and once
a
full implementation is realised undoubtedly many changes will occur in
the
country. “These are our thoughts and expectations,” the Patriarch said.

Mr. Debré, whose visit lasted about 45 minutes, thanked the Patriarch
for
his reception, signed the book of honour and took leave of the
Patriarchal
See together with the other members of the French National Assembly.

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