A commission comprising Armenia’s top state officials and Diaspora leaders has yet to decide what it will demand from Turkey apart from the recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide, a senior official in Yerevan said on Friday.
The commission planning the upcoming commemorations of the centenary of the genocide issued a landmark declaration on behalf of the Armenian people on Thursday. It reaffirmed the Armenian government’s and the Diaspora’s intention to seek greater international recognition of the genocide. They will also strive to “overcome consequences” of the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, said the body headed by President Serzh Sarkisian.
In that regard, the “pan-Armenian declaration” said commission experts are now working on a “package of legal demands” to be addressed to modern-day Turkey. It did not elaborate.
Vigen Sargsian, the chief of Sarkisian’s staff coordinating the planned events, would not be drawn on their likely recommendations. “We have set no concrete time frames as to when that group should come up with its final package because work on that package also requires very serious internal agreements with all interested beneficiaries,” he said. “If we were prepared to go into details at this point, that would have been reflected in the declaration.”
Sargsian declined to clarify whether the Armenian government favors only a formal Turkish recognition of the genocide or also material and even territorial compensation for the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians and loss of their properties. He said only that the commission represents the views of most Armenians scattered around the world, rather than the authorities in Yerevan.
The idea of such sweeping compensation claims is advocated by some political groups in Armenia and many Diaspora Armenian activists. Harut Sassounian, a prominent U.S.-Armenian columnist who took part in Thursday’s commission meeting in Yerevan, is one of them.
“They should compensate us just like Germany has compensated the Jewish people,” Sassounian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We do have the right to such compensation. It must not be only monetary. It must also include the lost church property and everything else that we had, including Western Armenia.”
“Those lands belong to the Armenian people,” he said, referring to areas in what is now eastern Turkey, which were mostly populated by Armenians until 1915.
Successive Armenian governments have avoided any territorial claims to Ankara. The Sarkisian administration went further in 2009, signing Turkish-Armenian protocols that commit Yerevan to explicitly recognizing Armenia’s existing border with Turkey.
The U.S.-brokered protocols never went into effect due to Ankara’s failure to have them unconditionally ratified by the Turkish parliament. Sarkisian has until now ignored domestic opposition and Diaspora calls for Yerevan to annul them.