Official Yerevan remains firm in its position to welcome efforts by other countries to recognize the Ottoman-era massacres of Armenians as genocide and deems them important not only for Armenia but also for the entire international community, according to the country’s top diplomat.
Earlier this week, both President Serzh Sarkisian’s office and the Armenian Foreign Ministry declined RFE/RL’s requests to react to or comment on a U.S. congressional resolution that calls on President Barack Obama to officially describe the 1915-1918 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
The draft resolution was introduced in the U.S. Senate by two pro-Armenian legislators last week. Similar legislation was circulated in the House of Representatives early this year.
Turkey, on the contrary, was quick to criticize the Senate bill through its ambassador to the United States, Nabi Sensoy, who said that the move runs counter to the spirit of the fence-mending protocols signed by Armenia and Turkey in Zurich on October 10.
Asked by RFE/RL to present official Yerevan’s attitude towards the latest congressional resolution in the United States, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said that “Armenia has always welcomed the recognition of or efforts to recognize the Armenian genocide by other countries.”
“We welcome this also because the issue of the recognition of the Armenian genocide concerns not only our people, it is very important for the entire international community so as to prevent such crimes against humanity from recurring,” Nalbandian said.
The Sarkisian administration has faced accusations of a sellout ever since it unveiled the two protocols envisaging the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey and reopening of their border. Its opponents are particularly unhappy with protocol clauses that commit Armenia to recognize the existing frontier and essentially accept a Turkish proposal to set up a commission of historians tasked with studying the World War One-era massacres. They say Yerevan is thus making it easier for Ankara to keep the U.S. and other countries from adopting genocide resolutions.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Belarus counterpart in Yerevan on Friday, Nalbandian gave assurances that official Yerevan “will never call into question the fact of the Armenian genocide or the importance of its recognition.”
Also, Nalbandian brushed aside accusations that Yerevan has acted under international pressure in pursuing improved relations with Turkey.
“The times when Armenia could be forced to make some steps are in the past. Armenia makes decisions independently and these decisions are made by its top leadership,” stressed Nalbandian.
The Armenian foreign minister also underscored that the Armenia-initiated process of normalization with Turkey “enjoys the backing of the whole international community except for a couple of countries.”
“Half an hour after the signing of the protocols, the UN secretary-general called on the two parties to ratify them as soon as possible, honor and implement the agreements; the European Union stated about that, too, as did France and Germany. Russia stated its position on that also very clearly and unequivocally,” said Nalbandian.
Nalbandian reiterated that there is no link between the ongoing rapprochement with Turkey and separate Armenian-Azerbaijan talks around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict despite some Turkish arguments to the contrary. He stressed that this position is shared by the states that jointly head the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that advances international mediatory efforts to find a negotiated solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.
“It means these are not mere statements by Armenia for ‘domestic consumption’…but the position of the international community,” concluded the minister.