MARSEILLE, France (RFE/RL) — President Serge Sargisian has urged Turkey to “repent” for the World War I era genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and expressed confidence that Ankara will eventually recognize them as genocide.
“We believe that Turkey must repent,” he said during a visit to Marseille late on Wednesday.
“That is neither a precondition nor a desire to exact revenge. Turkey must come face to face with its history,” he said. “One day Turkey’s leadership will find the strength to reassess its approaches to the Armenian Genocide,” he added, speaking at an official reception organized in his honor by Marseille’s Mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin and attended by prominent members of the local Armenian community.
“Sooner or later Turkey, which considers itself a European country, will have a truly European leadership that will bow its head at the Tsitsernakabert [genocide memorial in Yerevan,]” claimed the Armenian leader. “The sooner the better, but that is up to the Turkish people.”
There was no immediate reaction to the remarks from Ankara, which vehemently denies that some 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by the Ottoman Turks in 1915- 1918.
Successive Turkish governments have said that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and as a result of civil strife, rather than a premeditated government effort to exterminate a key Christian minority in the crumbling Ottoman Empire.