YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian said on Monday that modern-day Turkey is responsible for the 1915 genocide of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire as Armenia’somberly marked the 91st anniversary of the start of the Genocide.
Hundreds of thousands of people silently marched to the Dzidzernagapert–a hilltop memorial in Yerevan–and laid flowers by its eternal flame in an annual remembrance of the 1.5 million victims of the first genocide of the 20th century. Some of them carried Armenian flags and banners denouncing Turkey’s long-standing denial of the Genocide.
The day-long procession began with a prayer service in memory of the dead that was led by the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church–Catholicos Karekin II–in the presence of President Robert Kocharian–members of his government–and other senior officials.
The heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Yerevan were the next to lay wreathes at twelve bending columns that encircle the eternal fire on Dzidzernagapert Hill overlooking the city center. Among them was US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans.
Armenia’s leadership reaffirmed its pledge to seek worldwide recognition of the Genocide in collaboration with the Armenian diaspora and to continue to raise the issue in its dealings Turkey.
"Our pain is all the more intense as we are forced to struggle for the recognition and condemnation of that black page of our history," Kocharian said in a traditional April 24 written address to the nation. "As the defender of the interests of the Armenia’s living in the homeland and around the world–the Republic of Armenia will continue that struggle."
Kocharian indicated that Ankara’s unrepentant stance on the issue amounts to complicity in the genocide. "Ottoman Turkey and its legal successor bear full responsibility for this crime," he said.
Armenian leaders have refrained in the past from implicating the existing Turkish state in the 1915 genocide. Kocharian’s statement was welcomed by Giro Manoyan–spokesman for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). Manoyan said that by doing so–Kocharian held Ankara responsible for "carrying out the final phase of the genocide."