Armenian Foreign Ministry Reacts to Akhtamar Church Opening

YEREVANThe Armenian Foreign Ministry issued an announcement regarding the opening of the Holy Cross Church in Akhtamar. The ministrys acting spokesperson Vladimir Karapetian made the following remarks: We are pleased that the Armenian Church of Holy Cross on Akhtamar island, a jewel of world architecture, has been beautifully restored and renovated, albeit without a cross, and as a museum. This is a positive move and holds the potential of a reversal of the policy of negligence and destruction. We hope the same kind approach will extend to cover the nearly-collapsed churches of Ani, Mush, Tegor, and a dozen other priceless examples of Armenian medieval architecture, which have been abandoned at best, or more often, intentionally vandalized, simply because of their Armenian identity. Unfortunately, this opening was not transformed to a new opportunity in Armenia- Turkish relations, because the Turkish government has not found it expedient to do so. Instead, it will remain a formal ceremony, in which a small official delegation will participate. The border was not opened, even for one day, to allow our peoples to share this singular, historic event together. Instead, those from Armenia wishing to attend will be forced to travel, through a third country, two days to get there and back. This could have been a four-hour car ride across the border enjoyed by many. Turkeys announcemen’s about the opening of this renovated church do not include the word Armenian anywhere. Names of kings and regions from medieval times are evoked, but no mention is made of its Armenian and Apostolic belonging. This is an evasion of the Turkish governments responsibility not only to history and memory, but also to its own Armenian minority. Ironically, at the same time, many are heralding this renovation as a step forward in Armenia-Turkey relations. This is because the Turkish authorities need to demonstrate something positive in that direction. It is no coincidence that this opening is being held just as the US Congress is considering a resolution on affirming the US record on the Armenian Genocide. Even before the opening, pictures of the renovated church are being distributed in Washington as a sign of goodwill from Turks towards Armenia’s, and therefore obviating the need for third country pressure on Turkey. Armenia and Armenia’s wish for substantive progress with Turkey regarding our painful past and a potential of a shared future as neighbors. Armenia and Armenia’s do not want to be played in a never-ending process of gestures that do not intend to make real inroads in reconciliation, and instead are simply public relations moves. Armenia asks that the international community encourage Turkey to engage in a substantive process toward open borders and normal relations and not be satisfied with isolated symbols and gestures.

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