Armenian church ‘glad’ for message
Okan Konuralp - ANKARA
HÜRRİYET PhotoThe Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey has welcomed a message of condolences by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu over the killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottomans in 1915, just days before the ceremonies on April 24.
“This is a pointed message, I am glad,” said Deputy Armenian Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ateşyan on April 21, recalling that the then-prime minister, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, delivered a similar message last year.
“The message is an olive branch, just like the one last year, and it should not dry out,” Ateşyan told daily Hürriyet.
The Armenian and Turkish people should find a common path, just as they did in the past, he said on the eve of a ceremony at the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul.
“This will be a service for the Ottoman Armenians and all the people who lost their lives in that period,” he said. “Our pain is common.”
The ceremonies will also include a visit to the cemetery where Sevag Şahin Balıkçı, a Turkish-Armenian who was murdered by a Turkish soldier in April 24, 2011, while he was on his compulsory military duty.
April 24, the day Armenians commemorated the mass killings of their ancestors at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, will also be marked with a religious ceremony to be held by the Armenian Patriarchate, Davutoğlu said, while opposing efforts to describe the 1915 events as a genocide.
Davutoğlu issued a written statement on April 20 just four days before April 24 to express the condolences of the Turkish government and its people for the Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives during mass deportations and other privations. The first of such message was delivered last year by Erdoğan, who is now the president of Turkey.
“[Protecting] the memory of the Ottoman Armenians and Armenian cultural heritage is a humane and historic duty of Turkey. With this understanding, the Ottoman Armenians will be commemorated in Turkey just like in the entire world through a religious ceremony to be held on April 24 by the Armenian Patriarchate,” said the statement.
A joint commemoration of the Ottoman Armenians by Turkey and Armenia would be very meaningful, Davutoğlu said, reiterating that such a mature and virtuous move would be realized in the event history is not used as a political tool, as Anatolian culture has taught its peoples to heal wounds and look at the future together.
“In the meantime, we also believe that facing the past in an honest way is as important as commemorating those who lost their lives in order to lighten our pains. It’s possible to identify the reasons and perpetrators of what happened during World War I. However, demoting everything to a single word and putting the responsibility solely on the Turkish people and associating it with hate speech is consciously and legally problematic,” he said.
“As the grandchildren of two people who have shared the same destiny in the good and bad day a hundred years ago, our mutual responsibility is to heal the wounds and to re-establish our human bonds,” said Davutoğlu, recalling that Turkey was taking positive steps for the establishment of a common future by creating an environment in which all sorts of documents and information can be discussed. “Turkey will not be indifferent to this responsibility and will continue to do its best for friendship and peace.”
Meanwhile, Aram Hamparian, the head of the American National Committee of Armenians (ANCA), said he found Davutoğlu’s condolences “fake.” “Facing a global wave of Armenian Genocide recognition – from the pope to the European Parliament – Turkey’s leaders are defiantly doubling down on denial,” Hamparian said in his comments. “Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s fake apology today grants no recognition, accepts no responsibility, expresses no regret, and offers no reparations.”