Sarkisian Urges Turkey To Face Up To History

President Serzh Sarkisian (photo by Lucien Lung for Le Figaro

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has urged Turkey to follow the example of France in facing the past by admitting that the Ottoman-era massacres of more than 1.5 million Armenians constituted genocide.

In an interview with the French daily, Le Figaro, on Monday Sarkisian stressed, however, that Armenia did not intend to damage Turkey by its welcoming the affirmations of the Armenian Genocide by the world governments. “Our policy is not based on the desire to harm Turkey. It is based on clear principles. We want Turkey’s ties with France and other European countries to expand, so that Turkey can, through these relations, embrace European values.”

On Monday Sarkisian held a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris with French President Francois Hollande as part of his three-day official visit to France. The Armenian leader thanked the French government and people for their recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and appreciated Hollande’s position on a new bill to make denial of the genocide a criminal offense in France.

As a presidential candidate and later as elected president of France Hollande repeatedly assured the country’s influential Armenian community that he remained committed to enacting a new law in that regard. A similar measure initiated by Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy and passed by both houses of the French parliament was rejected by France’s highest court as “unconstitutional” last February.

The moves in France aimed at reaffirming the nation’s position on the Armenian Genocide have met strong opposition in Turkey whose leaders several times suspended political, economic and military ties with Paris over such developments in the past.

Sarkisian said that while welcoming decisions favoring Armenians in France, Armenia was not a direct factor influencing them.

“The policy of France in the issue of the Armenian Genocide is not dictated by us. France has publically recognized the Armenian Genocide and denial of this genocide is a continuation of the crime,” Sarkisian told the French newspaper. “We believe that those who try to revisit the history of genocide committed by one people against another fully share the responsibility for the crime.”

The Armenian president also said Turkish leaders should be able to face the past and follow the example of French leaders who have found the strength to speak about some of the dark pages of French history.

“French presidents have had the strength to face history. I applaud their courage. I will ask President Hollande to tell Turkish authorities how he personally condemned the deportation of Jews and their incarceration in concentration camps [during the Second World War]. This could serve as a lesson for the leaders of Turkey,” said Sarkisian.

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