President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday called on the winner of Turkey’s upcoming presidential election to visit Armenia next year and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
Sarkisian announced his invitation at a meeting of an Armenian state commission coordinating official ceremonies and other events planned for the centenary of the genocide to be marked in April 2015. He scoffed at the official Turkish line that the 1915 mass killings of Armenians should be addressed not by governments but historians having access to the state archives of both countries.
“If Turkey’s authorities want to know the truth they should come to Armenia and be with the Armenian people on April 24,” Sarkisian said in televised remarks. “I don’t think that they will call for visits to the archives after that.”
“Using this opportunity, I am officially inviting the president of Turkey, whoever wins the forthcoming elections, to visit Armenia on April 24, 2015 and face up to telling testimonies of the history of the Armenian genocide,” he declared.
The invitation was clearly addressed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is widely expected to run in and win the presidential ballot slated for August.
On the eve of the most recent genocide commemoration, Erdogan extended first-ever Turkish condolences to the descendants of the Armenians massacred in Ottoman Turkey. The move hailed by the West marked a further softening of Turkey’s decades-long policy of aggressive genocide denial. Official Yerevan dismissed Erdogan’s statement, however, saying that Ankara continues to deny that the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians constituted genocide.
“The recognition of the Armenian genocide is the only step which the Turkish leadership should take in order to rid itself of the burden of the past,” Sarkisian said on Tuesday. “It’s impossible to achieve a serious result with half-measures.”
Turkey’s current President Abdullah Gul visited Yerevan in September 2008 to watch with Sarkisian a game between the Armenian and Turkish national football teams. The landmark trip marked the beginning of an unprecedented rapprochement that culminated in the signing in October 2009 of Turkish-Armenian agreements to normalize bilateral relations. The Turkish government afterwards made their implementation contingent on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.