Istanbul’s Armenian Religious Leader Praises Erdogan’s ‘Condolences’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets the head of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey, Archbishop Aram Ateshian, in Ankara. May 1, 2014. (Photo: Anadolu Agency)

ANKARA (Hurriyet Daily News)—The Vicar General of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, Archbishop Aram Ateshian, on Thursday expressed optimism as he praised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent extension of condolences to the descendants of Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide of World War I.

The leader of the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey also stressed that “mutual sacrifices” were required to build a viable friendship and peace.

“Whatever is required for friendship, both sides shall make sacrifices. I can’t know what will happen. If you want to be friends, it is not just about saying ‘I love you’ to that person. That is not love, love requires sacrifice. Both sides shall make sacrifices so a bridge of friendship is built,” Ateshian told reporters on Thursday after a meeting with Erdogan.

He was accompanied by leading figures of the Armenian community during the meeting with the prime minister, which came days after Erdogan reiterated on April 29 a call for Armenia and Armenians living abroad to participate in “research” with Turkey to “document what happened.”

While maintaining that the time had come for the Armenian and Turkish people to “come together,” Ateshian said “nobody should play the three monkeys” by willfully ignoring the grievances experienced, in which millions of people lost their families and their homeland.

Historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. However, Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and claiming that those killed were victims of civil war and general unrest.

Describing Erdogan’s condolence message as a “watershed,” Ateshian referred to the story of the dove and the olive branch, from the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark.

“Like the dove that the Prophet [Noah] sent, our honorable prime minister extended an olive branch. We cannot ignore it. This olive branch is a peace symbol. We don’t want this branch to dry out. Now we want to plant this branch and want it to yield fruit,” Ateshian said, adding that “everybody’s support” was necessary to make this happen.

“Two societies lived together in fraternity for centuries and today we are longing for those days. Our call is to both sides: Come next to each other and lay the foundation of the bridge of friendship and peace,” he said.

“I believe that this first step initiated by our honorable prime minister has been met with appreciation by the majority of our community. As the Patriarchate, we also regard it with appreciation,” the patriarch added.

In response to questions, Ateshian said Erdogan did not disclose anything with regard to further reconciliation steps.

Ateshian said he left the meeting in happiness and hopeful for the future.

Erdogan issued a statement on April 23, offering condolences to the descendants of the Armenian Genocide, which he did not name a genocide, but simply an even in which “both sides suffered losses.” Armenians in the Armenian diaspora rejected the message, demanding that Turkey recognize that a genocide took place which removed Armenians from most of their homeland.

Erdogan soon after went on American television, where he denied the fact of the Armenian Genocide, asserting that a genocide could not have taken place, since there are still Armenians who live in Turkey.

“We are saying, let’s wipe away the tears, push prejudices to one side, and reveal historic truths in an objective manner,” Erdogan said on April 29, addressing the parliamentary group of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“I hope Armenia and the Armenian diaspora recognize our courageous step and reciprocate in the same courageous manner,” he said.


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  1. Vindicated Man said:

    I don’t take his words seriously. The man lives right inside the beasts’ den. He is under very strong pressure. I would feel happier, however, if he were as committed as, say, Hrant Dink. And shame on the Turkish government for applying political pressure on the Church. This fact must not pass unnoticed.

  2. Hratch said:

    “I hope Armenia and the Armenian diaspora recognize our courageous step and reciprocate in the same courageous manner,” ………….

    Before we jump to conclusions and reject it completely, let’s first realize that our efforts in the last one hundred years has done very little to advance our cause. In fact, we are worst than ever before. Armenia’s economy is in shambles and can not sustain its own population. The diaspora is surely and slowly assimilating away. If we keep the current status quo, we’re sure to destroy what little is left. By entering into dialog and opening up the channels, at least we’ll finally have a chance to explain our side. If things don’t go to our liking, we can always revert to our current position. There is no sense in continuing on with our confrontational posture. The world is too disconnected from events that occurred a hundred years ago. The present geopolitical structure will never allow the re-opening of such past injustices. Countries can not afford to condemn others while they have skeletons in their own closets. We can honor the dead by concluding this dark chapter in our history. We might not get everything that we demand, but at least we can start building for a better and brighter future. It is easy to be suspicious and distrust the opponent, but that is not the way things are settled. The willingness to first listen and study the opponents positions before making a decision is the more smart way to ensure a fair outcome.

  3. Ohan said:

    First of all Arch. Ateshian is NOT the Patriarch. The Patriarch is Arch. Mesrob Moutafian.
    Second, Arch. Ateshian is not the representative of the Armenian nation and country. He can talk about him and not in the name of the Armenian nation.

  4. GB said:

    Dear Archbishop there is no “mutual sacrifices”…and please shut your “holy” mouth. Armenian Nation, and most civilized world is fully aware of Turkish political games, in order to cover up Armenian Genocide!

  5. Dr.Hermon Mihranian said:

    If Prime Minister Erdogan realy means what He stated then I can not see the reason why He officialy does not recognize the Armenian Genocide

  6. Arto Djerian said:

    Poor Patriarch is TREMBLING in front of SATAN Erdoghan ,Poor Patriarch what can he do other than accepting the KILLERS Condoleances ?? The poor guy he is forced to accept any thing, Or be BEHEADED By the same Terrorist criminal Turks As they did in 1915,

    • Arto Djerian said:

      Condoleances ?? For all the Killings of innocent Aemenians ??? B.S..

  7. GeorgeMardig said:

    The Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul, can’t do anything else but praise. Cheap propaganda. We should remember that Erdogan is a DICTATOR, not a Democratic President.

  8. Alex Postallian said:

    After living the great LIE,for over hundred years,the pain,NOW, you going to believe this TRAMP…errodoggie….

  9. Sera said:

    “Both sides”?

    The other side is annihilated and scattered. After a genocide, there are no both sides…

  10. John Ahmaranian said:

    Come on ! Mr. Prime Minister, come on ! Is it logic to say that “a genocide could not have taken place, since there are still Armenians who live in Turkey”. Because there are Biafra people still living in that region, it means that a genocide of Biafra people did not occur? Because Jewish communities live todays in Germany would allow you to say that the Holocaust did not happen?

    You tried many times to deny the Armenian Genocide and you failed. No one with a gram of brain will buy your statement. Come on !

  11. Sokimag said:

    It is a shame that the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul makes such useless comments. It is better to be silent about this issue if what he intends to say is non-sense. Armenians in Turkey are pro-Turks. That’s the problem with them. Instead of wanting justice for us Armenians, they want sacrifices for a fake “peace” with Turks.

  12. Sarkis said:

    The need for the “better to die fighting like a man than live as a coward” attitude and the sad result of not having it is best demonstrated in the Turkish-Armenian community. Compare to the Armenians of Artsakh, its like a different race and culture.

  13. Tony Keusseyan said:

    There is no doubt that this is a hurtful position to take to all Armenians, and the Patriarch of Istanbul knows that very well. This said, as an Armenian Community Leader, he has NO CHOICE but to line himself up, and stand with the Government of Turkey! Job No. 1 for the Patriarch of Istanbul is to secure peace for his Armenian Community. In Lebanon for example, our Tachnak Party, on many occasions aligned itself with the side that best secured and protected the Armenian Community. Even if, at times, this was not in their best political interest or principles. Therefore, the Armenian Community, anywhere in the world, must come first to political or historically factual issues. God only knows we lost enough of us…

    I am of Armenian Lebanese, and found myself in Istanbul a few times over. Especially during the 5th anniversary of the murder of Hrant Dink, just when the Turkish Justice system had decided there was no conspiracy in his murder!? During the protests, I have seen COURAGE like never before from Armenians. It is one thing to sit behind your computer in Los Angeles and criticize Armenian/Turkish issues. It is totally another when you’re standing in the heart of Istanbul, Turkey, yelling from the bottom of your throat, that you (Turkey) are a “Murderous Nation”, and you (Turkey) “Still Have an Account to Give to the Armenian People”… So, do not underestimate the wisdom behind the political stand of the Patriarch of Istanbul.

  14. Edward Demian said:

    I understand all that. But I am still looking over the wall, and not enjoying the fruit of my property. Someone else lives in my ancestral house/land etc. Compensation should be available to anyone asking for it. Christian, Muslim, any ethnicity. Most of the time, the third generation residents of former Armenian properties , far removed from the crime or the criminal, would be unfair to punish; For something that their government past and present did and is doing to many of its own people. Too many victims in Turkey. A European Turkey, without the Mongol style cruelty would not be a bad place to retire. When Turkish society rids itself of its opresers, only then will Turkey stop oppressing its minorities.

  15. Edward Demian said:

    I recall many Lebanese boys who went to Artsack . Most did not return. Monty came from California, I see a tortured people pointing at each other. Armenia is doing well. If it wanted another million population, it could do it as fast as it could absorb. Every town in every country has Armenians in it. Romania alone has about 300,000 Armenians (assimilated) but rural people, living all around 600 year old monasteries. In Moldova, some On the Ukraine /Romanian border. Bulgaria? Russia, etc. There are 100000 Syrian Armenians ready to come to Armenia. Where are the boats heading for the Syrian Harbors ?

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