Armenia formally recognized the First World War-era mass killings of Assyrians and Greeks in the Ottoman Empire as genocide with a resolution unanimously passed by its parliament on Tuesday.
“The National Assembly of Armenia declares that it condemns the genocide of Greeks and Assyrians perpetrated in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1923,” reads the resolution co-sponsored by the main parliamentary factions.
The document says that the widely documented massacres conformed to the definition of genocide set by a 1948 United Nations convention. It also cites “centuries-old friendly relations between the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian peoples.”
An estimated 300,000 Assyrian subjects of the Ottoman Empire were killed or starved to death during and in the aftermath of the First World War. An even larger number of Ottoman Greeks died at the time as part of the same genocidal government policy that also left some 1.5 million Armenians dead.
The International Association of Genocide Scholars concluded in 2007 that “the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontic and Anatolian Greeks.”
The Armenian parliament adopted the resolution one month before official commemorations in Yerevan of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
“This will be our contribution to the international fight against genocides,” its ethnic Greek deputy speaker, Eduard Sharmazanov, said as he presented the text to fellow lawmakers on Monday.
Leaders of Armenia’s small Assyrian and Greek communities were invited to the parliament to witness its passage. They hailed the development.
“People in various countries with Assyrian communities have long wondered why this issue is not addressed in Armenia,” said Arsen Mikhaylov, head of the Yerevan-based Assyrian association Atur.
Eduard Polatov, who leads the Patrida union of ethnic Greeks in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, also called the official Armenian recognition overdue. Polatov said it will encourage more Greeks around the world to campaign for greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
Greece and Cyprus recognized the Armenian genocide in 1999 and 1975 respectively. Last year, Greece also enacted a law making it a crime to publicly deny this and other genocides.