Sarkisian Honors Memory of Woodrow Wilson; Rejects Turkey’s Preconditions on Bilateral Dialogue

WASHINGTON–Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian rejected Turkey’s efforts to impose preconditions on Armenia-Turkey dialogue, during remarks delivered following a wreath laying ceremony honoring the life and legacy of President Woodrow Wilson.

Speaking to hundreds of Armenian Americans gathered at the National Cathedral, Sarkisian praised President Wilson’s 1919 call for a united effort to ensure that “the Armenian people never suffer again.” Ninety five years later, countries around the world and organizations, including those in the U.S., continue to carry on Wilson’s legacy, stated Sarkisian, to prevent genocide and suffering through recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Noting his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan earlier in the day, Sarkisian reiterated opposition to Turkey-imposed preconditions on Turkey-Armenia Protocol discussions. “Turkey cannot speak in the language of preconditions to Armenia and the Armenian people,” said Sarkisian, who went on to reject Turkey’s efforts to question the historical truth of the Armenian Genocide, or inject itself in the Nagorno Karabakh negotiation process.

During his visit to President Wilson’s tomb, Pres. Sarkisian greeted Armenian Genocide survivors Rose Baboyian, Yeretsgeen Sirarpi Khoyan and Lousadzeen Tatarian, who presented the President with a letter urging him to continue the fight for Genocide recognition and stand up for the rights of the Armenian people. Following the wreath-laying ceremony, Sarkisian stood solemnly as Armenian American clergy offered prayers in memory of President Wilson and honored the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

Among the clergy in attendance were Eastern Prelate Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Eastern Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, and Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Legate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), and representatives of the Armenian Catholic and Evangelical communities.

Armenian American reaction to Sarkisian’s statements was swift. ARF Eastern Region Central Committee Chairman Antranig Kasbarian told the Armenian Weekly that “Pres. Sarkisian’s remarks — both in timing and in substance — are greatly encouraging. The symbolism of honoring Woodrow Wilson — a champion of Genocide survivors and guarantor of Western Armenia — was not lost on those assembled. Nor was the President’s assessment of current political relations, in which he clearly rejected any preconditons by Turkey toward normalizing bilateral ties.”

Kasbarian warned, however, that “the true test will come behind closed doors, when Mr. Sarkisian encounters the inevitable pressure from Washington and Ankara to come to terms. If he follows the path set out today, then we can reasonably hope that Armenia will retreat from the Protocols and the dangerous course they represent. If not, then we may see Armenia’s predicament go from bad to worse.”

Kasbarian reflected the community concerns expressed in an April 9 joint letter by leading Armenian civic, religious and social service organizations which urged President Sarkisian to call on President Barack Obama to honor his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide and reject Turkish government efforts to use the Turkey-Armenia Protocols to delay international affirmation of this crime against humanity. The signatories pressed the Armenian President to announce that the Turkey-Armenia Protocol discussions cannot continue “given Turkey’s unconstructive and antagonistic posture” throughout the process.

To read the complete text of the letter, visit: http://www.anca.org/press_releases/press_releases.php?prid=1851

Obama “Commends” Sarkisian for Armenia-Turkey Normalization Efforts
Reports from Pres. Sarkisian’s 45-minute meeting with President Obama came Monday evening with a “read out” issued by the White House stating that:

“The President commended President Sarkisian for his courageous efforts to achieve normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey and encouraged him to fulfill the promise of normalization for the benefit of the Armenian people. President Obama also urged that both Armenia and Turkey make every effort to advance the normalization process and achieve legislative ratification of the protocols of normalization. President Obama also expressed his support for Armenian democracy.”

Earlier Monday, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported Armenian government sources as stating that “the two leaders spoke about ‘the course of normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey’ and ‘exchanged thoughts’ on the current status of the Karabakh peace process” among other issues.

Commenting on President Obama’s Washington invitation of President Sarkisian in the days leading up to the annual April 24th Armenian Genocide commemoration, Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian noted: “We would consider it highly inappropriate for the President of the United States to have invited the President of Armenia to Washington, only days before April 24th, if he had an intention of doing anything less than fully recognizing the Armenian Genocide; fully honoring his commitment to recognize this crime against humanity. We are looking forward to President Obama keeping faith with his own words and keeping faith with the relationship he seeks with Armenia by recognizing the Armenian Genocide.”

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