By Armen Zakarian
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, in Armenia on a three-day official visit, said Thursday the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted a genocide and voiced hope that such tragedies will never happen again.
“What happened was a genocide and nobody should dispute that fact,” Kwasniewski declared at a meeting with students and the faculty of Yerevan State University. He also drew parallels between the massacre of some 1.5 million Armenians and the extermination of Polish Jews by Nazi Germany during the World War II.
Kwasniewski and his wife, Jolanta, at the genocide memorial in Yerevan
The remarks, which are bound to anger Turkey, were made after Kwasniewski’s visit to the genocide memorial in Yerevan. “The genocide of Armenians in 1915 is a fact and what we see here today is the truth,” AFP quoted him as saying there. “We Poles know well what it means ... Fascist Germany organized the Holocaust on our territory.”
Turkey is adamant that the mass killings were not a genocide, putting the Armenian death toll at 300,000. Ankara insists that the Armenians were repressed by the Ottoman regime because of their collaboration with advancing Russian troops.
The Polish leader arrived in Armenia on Wednesday for a visit which the two countries hope will strengthen their relationship. Kwasniewski and Armenian President Robert Kocharian urged their business communities to boost the currently modest level of bilateral commercial ties as they opened a Polish-Armenian business forum in Yerevan on Thursday.