Not that I am a specialist of Turkish studies in the broad sense of the word. I have been to Turkey only twice, and I have already written about my first visit. During the second one, I climbed Mount Ararat with my friends. However, it’s a different story. I just happened to meet with leaders of the modern Turkish state during various stages of my career as a journalist. Today’s hero of my trilogy is Mevlut Chavushoglu who held the post of the PACE Chairman in 2010-2012 and who I interviewed in Strasburg in June 2010.
So, I was invited to report the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe in Strasburg in June 2010. It’s a standard procedure for the press service of the Council of Europe when the guest journalist is asked beforehand who he would like to meet within the visit. I impudently asked to organize an interview both with the Council of Europe and PACE Chairmen. Mevlut Chavushoglu was appointed to the post only a few months ago but he already managed to “stand out” by trying to rehabilitate the late subcommittee engaged in NK conflict resolution. The goal was one: to take the initiative of peace process from the PACE and shift the discussions to the CoE where the Azerbaijanis prepared fertile soil with their caviar, carpets and other valuable gifts for the pro-Azerbaijani position. And moreover, the appointed Chairman was from their brotherly state of Turkey and he didn’t conceal his views.
Quite unexpectedly for me, Chavushoglu agreed to answer my questions and I was informed that I would have 20 minutes to talk to him on the third day of the session. Naturally, the question was what to ask Chavushoglu. My colleague Ara Tadevosyan suggested interviewing him in a “kamikaze” style, meaning “attacking” the interviewee immediately with sharp questions, provoking a debate and ''perishing as a courageous person''. I was for a more subtle version as I didn't want the CoE security service to kick me out immediately after the meeting.:)
I have to digress from the topic here and say a few words what the PACE building looked like those days. A very prominent place on the first floor was allocated to a photo exhibition dedicated to Turkey featuring the sights and historic sites of the country. On the second floor, right next to the hall, Azerbaijani Days were being held. The corridor was ''decorated'' with photos of Azerbaijani sights and Azerbaijanis lavishly treated everyone at the break - the delegation members themselves ''caught'' the MPs leaving the hall and took them to the tables abundant with not only dishes but various souvenirs, sweets, propagandizing books and small carpets which were generously gifted to everyone. One of Azerbaijani female MPs, Ganira Pashaeva, if I'm not mistaken, stood in front of the ''fiesta'' and ''hissed'' every time I or anyone from our delegation passed by her. Perhaps, there is no need to note that when the former Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg was presenting the tragic situation in the field in Azerbaijan, nobody was there to listen to him as everyone was being treated in the neighborhood.
Anyways, this is how my conversation with Chavushoglu took place. I came to the meeting in time (even a bit earlier and I had to wait for a while as his conversation with Azerbaijani journalists naturally took a little longer). The PACE Chairman greeted me with a smile and set to the interview immediately without losing time. As I was promised to have 20 minutes I decided to ask the sharp questions in the end. As I noted, you can read the interview itself here. I should only add that the sharper the questions got the gloomier his face grew. I felt that if he didn't have to bypass the sharp angles in a diplomatic way, he was ready to give rather aggressive answers. Finally, my question that the PACE didn't respond to the fact that a few days ago, an Azerbaijani subversive killed 4 Armenian soldiers and injured another 4 in the combat positions drove him out of his wits. He started justifications that he heard about it for the first time but his facial expression showed he was lying. At that moment, he stopped the interview stressing that the 10 promised minutes were over and pointed to the door. I didn't retreat and gave some questions concerning Armenia-Turkey relations, even though he asked me not to talk about it emphasizing that he's not authorized to answer instead of Turkish authorities.
My last question obviously upset Chavushoglu. He forgot the diplomacy and started using words which aren't generally used by such high-ranking officials...At that moment, his assistant entered the room and gave a sign that the next arranged interviewer had come and I needed to finish. I turned off the recorder and while I was getting ready to go, Chavushoglu said exactly the following: ''You, Armenians, hate me. Why do you hate me?'' I didn't manage to answer anything, just shrugged my shoulders as it was a rhetoric question. My interviewee had long known the answer.
Davit Alaverdyan is the Chief Editor of Mediamax.