Armenia Marks Genocide Anniversary, Slams Turkish Denial

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Hundreds of thousands of people silently marched to a hilltop memorial in the annual remembrance of some 1.5 million fellow Armenians slaughtered by Ottoman Turks.

An incessant stream of people passed through the Tsitsernakabert Memorial to the Genocide victims throughout the day, laying flowers by its eternal fire surrounded by 12 inward-bending basalt columns.

The day-long procession began in the morning after a traditional prayer service held there by the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, in the presence of President Serge Sargisian and other top state officials.

The stark memorial, perched on Tsitsernakabert Hill overlooking central Yerevan, is the focal point of the annual Genocide commemorations in Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora communities around the world.

“The Ottoman Empire implemented at the state level the program of elimination and expulsion of the Armenian people,” Sargisian said in a traditional written address to the nation issued on the occasion.

“Throughout the process, at its every stage the murders, deportations, conversions and enslavement of the Armenians were viewed as routine trifles,” he said. “As for foreign interventions, they failed to stop the perpetrators and in some instances pushed them towards even more gruesome acts.”

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Sargisian praised Turkish intellectuals and other prominent public figures who increasingly challenge the official Turkish version of the events of 1915.

Sargisian, however, condemned the denial of the Genocide by Turkey as a “a direct continuation of the Armenian Genocide. The official policy of Turkey carries on with the course of denial,” he said. “Moreover, that policy becomes more ‘sophisticated,’ becomes more, so to speak, ‘flexible,’ and from time to time makes singular, formal propaganda steps.”

“Any attempt to erase the tracks of a crime is a new crime,” he added.

In a separate statement, Parliament Speaker Hovik Abrahamian called on Ankara to “eliminate all legal, political and other impediments that do not allow the Turkish society to examine its past in an uninhibited manner.” He also urged more foreign governments and parliaments to officially recognize the mass killings as genocide.

 More than two-dozen nations, including France, Canada and Russia, have already done so.