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Switzerland´s Canton of Vaud Recognizes the Armenian Genocide

Report by the Switzerland-Armenia Association (SAA)

Lausanne, Palais de Rumine, 5 July 2005

In the same room in which the Treaty of Lausanne was signed, after a
dignified debate, the Grand Council (legislative bodies) of the Canton of
Vaud rejected this morning a report of the State Council (executive body) –
written under the supervision of the Federal Council (Swiss government),
published on January 12, 2005 – refusing to characterize the massacres of
the Armenians in 1915 as Genocide. This report has been issued by the State
Council as an answer to the postulate Sandri, adopted in 2003 by the Grand
Council, which was demanding the recognition of the Armenian genocide by the
State Council.

While not wanting to condemn either the Turkish people or the current
government, yet maintaining the importance of honoring the Armenian people,
the Grand Council followed the recommendations of the commission charged
with examining the original report, and adopted a formal resolution
recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Before voting, the final brief intervention of Cantonal Minister Jean-Claude
Mermoud, director of DIRE (Institutions and External Relations Department)
no longer evoked the main arguments of the report: the absence of intention
of the crime committed by the Young Turks against the Armenians at the turn
of the last century and the points aimed at diminishing the importance of
the worldwide recognition of the Armenian genocide. The document, which was
rife with imprecisions and omissions – more than simple misjudgment –
reflected the desire not to displease the Swiss Foreign Ministry and the
Seco (State Secreteriat for Economy), given the obvious fact that a topic
close to the highly sensitive nerves of an economic partner (Turkey) was
being touched. Minister Mermoud said that the only difference with the
commission was in “how” to accomplish the task of remembrance and that he
would not place any obstacles in the work of the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

Fortunately, the representatives – of all political backgrounds – recognized
the erroneous arguments of this report and rejected it with overwhelming
majority (with 85 votes in favor, 51 against, and 12 abstentions). Moreover,
they reiterated the task of remembrance assumed following the adoption of
the Sandri postulate, on 23 September 2003, which resulted in the
cancellation of Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey’s visit to Turkey ten days later.

In the very place where the great European powers and Turkey sanctioned in
1923 the termination of the political rights of the Armenians, the Grand
Councilors today reaffirmed not only the appropriateness, but also the
responsibility of political bodies to characterize as genocide this crime
against humanity in adopting by an overwhelming majority (86 votes in favor,
35 against, and 25 abstentions) the following resolution:

“The Grand Council of the Canton of Vaud recognizes the Genocide of the
Armenian people of 1915 and honors the memory of its victims.”

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