President Serzh Sarkisian has expressed hope that senior U.S. officials will visit Armenia on April 24 to attend official commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the new U.S. ambassador in Yerevan said on Friday.
The envoy, Richard Mills, held his first news conference at the U.S. Embassy after handing his credentials to Sarkisian. He met with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on Thursday.
Mills said both Sarkisian and Nalbandian stressed the importance of high-level U.S. presence at the official ceremonies in Yerevan that will mark the genocide centenary. “I will convey that to Washington,” he said.
Sarkisian’s office confirmed that the upcoming centenary commemorations were on the agenda of the meeting with Mills. But it gave no details.
Official Yerevan has reportedly sent invitations to dozens of world leaders. It is clear whether any high-ranking U.S. officials are among them.
U.S. President Barack Obama has declined to describe the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Empire as genocide in his annual statements issued on April 24. He has used instead the Armenian phrase “Meds Yeghern,” or Great Calamity, to honor the 1.5 million victims of “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.”
Both Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged to explicitly recognize the genocide when they ran for president in 2008 and 2004 respectively.
According to his office, Sarkisian reaffirmed his commitment to deepening Armenia’s ties with the United States. They already “occupy an important place” on the Armenian foreign policy agenda, he said, praising the U.S. role in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and promote broader regional security.
A statement released by the office said the two men also discussed ongoing efforts to agree a new U.S.-Armenian deal meant to facilitate bilateral trade and investments. Mills told reporters that the issue will be a major focus of his tour of duty in Armenia. But he stressed that the onus is on the Armenian authorities to attract more U.S. investments by improving the domestic business climate.