YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Noyan-Tapan)–The leaders of a pro-Armenian group in the British Parliament pledged to continue to strive for Britain’s recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide as they wrapped up a three-day visit to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh on Wednesday.
The British-Armenian All-Party Parliamentary Group–which comprises 56 members of the Houses of Commons and Lords–initiated a public petition to British Prime Minister Tony Blair two years ago–asking him to officially condemn the genocide. The petition was signed by some 2,500 politicians and public figures–including London Mayor Ken Livingstone.
"Our hope is that the number of politicians supporting our cause will increase so much that Mr. Blair will not be able to say no," said Odette Bazil–the group’s executive secretary.
Bazil and other leaders of the group acknowledged that the Blair government does not want to put its close relations with Turkey at risk by describing the mass killings of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. "As yet–the British government is not supporting our position," said Jane Griffiths–an MP from Blair’s Labor Party.
Heading the delegation–the Vice-Speaker of the British Parliament’s House of Lords Baroness Caroline Cox–was impressed by the economic growth registered in Armenia and Artsakh. As Baroness Cox pointed out–the delegation members–who had earlier visited Armenia–cannot help admiring the Armenian people. She expressed her concern–however–over the bellicose propaganda carried out by the Azeri press. ". . . Even if official Baku were eager to settle the conflict peacefully–such propaganda can be of no use to it," she said.
Cox noted that Artsakh is a matter of ambition for Azerbaijan–but for Armenia–it is a matter of survival.
Members of the delegation also expressed concerned over the pro-Azeri biased attitude of international organizations–particularly UN structures providing humanitarian aid to Armenian and Azeri refugees.
A member of a similar parliamentary group promoting British-Azerbaijani relations Robert Wareing–also called for genocide recognition. Wareing–who was also visiting Armenia and Karabakh–said it must be a key condition for Turkey’s membership in the European Union. "First of all–Turkey should apologize for the genocide. Secondly–she should withdraw her troops from Cyprus," he told a news conference in Yerevan.