The nationalist opposition party attributed the snub to his apparent refusal to visit a Yerevan memorial to more than one million Armenians massacred by Ottoman Turks in 1915-1918 in what many historians consider a genocide.
Cavusoglu will arrive in Yerevan on Wednesday for a two-day visit that will focus on Armenia’s compliance with its Council of Europe membership commitments. He is scheduled to meet with President Serzh Sarkisian, parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian as well as leaders of political parties represented in the Armenian parliament and the extra-parliamentary opposition.
According to Dashnaktsutyun, the PACE chief has informed the Armenian authorities that he will not visit the Armenian genocide memorial. Government sources confirmed the information. A wreathe-laying ceremony at the Tsitsernakabert memorial is normally part of the itinerary of foreign dignitaries visiting the country.
“Representatives of the PACE leadership have never shown such a disrespectful attitude before, regardless of whether or not their countries recognize the Armenian Genocide,” wrote Hovannisian. “In effect, Mr. Cavusoglu is making no secret of the fact that he is visiting Armenia not so much as head of the PACE as a Turkish politician. In these circumstances, our faction does not find it expedient to meet with him.”
In a separate interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Hovannisian urged other parliament factions to do the same. “Naturally, Cavusoglu was always going to be a Turkish president [of the PACE] and place Turkish interests above everything else,” he said. “For no Turkish politician has reached the level of European broad-mindedness and will reach it in the foreseeable future.”
Parliamentary representatives of the governing Republican, Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Orinats Yerkir parties made clear, however, that they will not snub the Turkish parliamentarian.
Aram Safarian, a senior BHK lawmaker, told RFE/RL that members of his faction will tell Cavusoglu that they are deeply suspicious of his efforts to have the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict discussed at the Strasbourg-based assembly. “We see this as being part of Turkey’s continuing efforts to mediate in a conflict where its positions towards our country are not balanced and impartial,” Safarian said, referring to Ankara’s unconditional support for Azerbaijan.
Another parliamentary force, the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, was due to decide later on Tuesday whether to meet Cavusoglu. One of its leaders, Stepan Safarian, spoke out in favor of such a meeting. He said Zharangutyun lawmakers should use it to express their “attitudes to and resentment with” the Turkish government’s policies on Armenia.
Another, more influential opposition group, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), also agreed to hold talks with the visiting the PACE head. But it was not clear whether the bloc’s top leader, former Levon Ter-Petrosian, will be in attendance.