YEREVAN (Arka)—Addressing an international media forum in the Armenian capital entitled “At the Foot of Mount Ararat,” dedicated to the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, President Serzh Sarkisian said Armenia, Armenians all over the world and the international community will remember and commemorate the Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire one century ago.
“The genocide took lives of one and a half million Armenians, hundreds of thousands of people became refugees or were forcefully converted to Islam. Each Armenian from any corner of the world continues to feel the consequences of the Mets Yeghern psychologically, culturally, linguistically and politically.
“We wish we could have also commemorated the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide together with the Turkish people, thereby heralding a new haven of the rapprochement of the two nations and normalization of their relations. This was the goal pursued by the protocols between Armenia and Turkey signed back in 2009 and of my invitation to the President Erdoğan of Turkey to join us on April 24 in honoring the memory of the Armenian Genocide victims. Unfortunately, once more we encountered denial, one that acquired a particular manifestation this year,” he said.
“I believe you are well aware that this year Turkish authorities decided to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli on the very day of April 24. The only motive for that was the simple-minded goal to distract the attention of the international community from the events dedicated to the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. By the way, in this context your Norwegian colleague Bård Larsen published in February an article titled ‘Useless Diplomacy,’ in which he very aptly put that ‘this would be tantamount to Germany celebrating heroic victories of Wehrmacht in the Eastern Front during World War II.’
“I regret that the Turkish authorities instead of availing themselves of this Centennial to confront their own history and reconcile, put themselves in an awkward position by obviously distorting the well-known chronology the Battle of Gallipoli, and thereby embellishing their policy of denial with new manifestations.
“The Turkish policy of denial pursued not only vindicates the crime committed by the Ottoman authorities – the dispossession of Armenians – but also sets a dangerous precedent for the recurrence of new genocides. The Holocaust, the Rwandan and Cambodian genocides, the ethnic cleansing and destruction of cultural heritage carried out by the Islamic State in recent years have all been striking examples of this. Their efforts to avoid responsibility or consign the Armenian Genocide to oblivion can be characterized as continuation of the crime and encouragement of new genocides.
“Nevertheless, I must note that larger and larger segments of the Turkish intelligentsia and progressive youth are demonstrating courage to confront their historical past, desiring to live a dignified life and relieving themselves of such a heavy burden of sin.
“It is a matter of plain fact that the policy pursued by the current Turkish government rules out the possibility of bringing the famous Protocols into life at which official Ankara looked from the perspective of the absurd preconditions perpetually set forth by it. For that very reason I decided to recall them from our parliament. Thus, the process did not reach its logical conclusion, and everybody knows which party is to blame for its failure. This does not mean that we are closing the window for rapprochement with Turkey. Nevertheless, we are not going to get involved in a process, which may fall victim to the third country’s unconstructive whims and, most importantly, without hope of restoring mutual trust.
“Initially, we thought that the policy ‘Zero Problems with Neighbors’ proclaimed by the Turkish authorities enshrined Turkey’s sincere intentions to normalize relations with neighboring countries, including Armenia. I do not want to comment on the nature of current relations between Turkey and other states, but as the subsequent developments demonstrated, Turkey had to face the reality of ‘Zero Neighbors and Numerous Problems.’ In fact, Turkey’s real intention was not to have zero problems with neighbors, but to impose its own perception of those relations on the neighbors, which was nothing other than a manifestation of Neo-Ottoman policy.
“The State Commission for coordination of the events for commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centenary was established. Its members encompassed heads of all the largest Armenian institutions. The Commission adopted All-Armenian Declaration, which determined the united will of the Armenian people; by that Armenia and the Armenian people reiterated their commitment to continuing the international struggle for the prevention of genocides, restoration of the rights and establishment of historical justice for the nations subjected to genocide.
“In that perspective, the Armenian Genocide Centennial events are not solely of all-Armenian nature; they are a unique appeal to prevent any encroachment upon universal values. For that very reason I have invited the leaders and high-level officials of various countries to visit Armenia on April 24 and, thus, send a powerful message of the inadmissibility of the crime of genocide to the world,” Sarkisian concluded.