People walk to the Tsitsernakaberd memorial in Yerevan during an annual commemoration of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey, April 24, 2023.

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan reiterated his case for normalizing Armenia’s “regional relations” on Monday as tens of thousands of people marched to the Tsitsernakaberd memorial in Yerevan to mark the 108th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.

The annual daylong procession began with an official wreath-laying ceremony at the hilltop memorial led by Pashinyan, Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan and President Vahagn Khachaturyan.

The country’s political leaders were again not joined by Catholicos Karekin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church at odds with Pashinyan’s government. Karekin and other high-ranking clergymen visited Tsitsernakaberd separately to hold a traditional prayer service by its eternal fire.

The genocide began with mass arrests on April 24, 1915 of Armenian intellectuals and activists in Constantinople. An estimated 1.5 million Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire were massacred or starved to death in the following months and years.

“On April 24, we commemorate the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century, and tens of thousands of citizens will carry out a procession of respect, remembrance and meditation to the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial today.

“The April 24 procession is perhaps the most impactful occurrence that has predetermined and is predetermining our reality, an exceptional day to think about our history, past and future,” Pashinyan said in a statement released on the occasion.

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He stressed that only a “developed and sovereign state” can ensure the existence and security of the Armenian people. “And everyone has something to do for the establishment of the state — with education, work, civil responsibility and respect for law,” Pashinyan said.

A candlelight vigil in Yerevan (AFP photo)

According to Pashinyan, Armenia’s strategic choice for the region boils down to the following question: “Do we have the will and ability to normalize and develop our regional relations, regardless of the fact that, or even especially in the case when the existing security threats around us worsen due to regional or extra-regional reasons?”

“Realizing all the difficulties and complications, our government has decided to go the way of finding a positive answer to that question, because only that way can guarantee security and well-being,” the Armenian premier underlined.

Pashinyan did not specifically mention in his statement the latest developments in the Lachin corridor that connects Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.

But in its statement on April 24 Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which earlier condemned the installation of an Azerbaijani checkpoint on the road that officially curbs free movement for Armenians along the corridor, drew parallels between what happened a century ago and today’s events.

“Unfortunately, today, as a century ago, the danger of genocidal policy is palpable in different corners of the world. Even today, Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh are facing the danger of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The continuous aggressive policy of Azerbaijan towards the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, the anti-Armenian rhetoric, the actions aimed at depriving Armenians of their homeland, erasing the Armenian trace are nothing, but a manifestation of genocidal intentions,” the Armenian ministry said.

Unlike 2022, Pashinyan did not specifically mention efforts on normalization with Turkey in his April 24 statement.

The Turkish and Armenian governments have appointed special envoys who have held several rounds of negotiations since early 2022 aimed at achieving normalization in relations between the two countries.

Since then Pashinyan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exchanged messages and had a telephone call to discuss prospects of settling relations.

Also, Armenia sent rescuers and humanitarian aid to Turkey when a devastating earthquake struck the country in February, with Ankara temporarily reopening a crossing point at the border with Armenia for the humanitarian supply. Armenia said it expects that Turkey will reopen the border permanently for third countries’ citizens and diplomats in the near future.

Armenian opposition leaders claim that Pashinyan is ready to make sweeping concessions to Ankara in exchange for the normalization of relations with Turkey. Pashinyan denies that, insisting that his government acts in the best interest of Armenia.


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