DAMASCUS (RFE/RL)–Turkey’s reluctance to unconditionally normalize relations with Armenia is only facilitating a broader international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian suggested in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday.
Sarkisian spoke to the Syrian daily “Al Watan” during an official visit to Syria that began on Monday. He was asked, in particular, to comment on a resolution recognizing the 1915 genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks that was adopted by a U.S. congressional committee on March 4.
“One thing is obvious to me,” he replied. “The longer the process of normalizing our relations [with Turkey] lasts, the larger the number of states adopting such resolutions may become.”
It was a clear reference to Ankara’s failure to ratify the Turkish-Armenian normalization protocols signed in October. Turkish leaders link the ratification with a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would satisfy Azerbaijan. They also say that the genocide resolutions adopted by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee as well as Sweden’s parliament this month have further complicated Turkish-Armenian reconciliation.
By contrast, Yerevan has welcomed both resolutions. “I don’t think it’s right to attempt to link that [normalization] process with the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by other countries,” Sarkisian told “Al Watan.”
Sarkisian, who held talks with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, is scheduled to visit the northeastern city of Deir ez-Zor on Wednesday. The eponymous desert surrounding it was the final destination point of hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Armenians forced out of their homes in 1915-1918. The Armenian community in Syria built there a memorial complex dedicated to them in 1990.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Sarkisian on Monday, Assad offered Syria’s help in establishing cordial relations between Armenia and Turkey for the sake of regional security and stability. “Syria is ready to play a role… for the establishment of Turkish-Armenian relations that can ensure normal stability and security in the region,” he said, according to AFP news agency.
“I think… officials in Armenia have given us their full confidence, which is why we are starting immediate steps, especially since President Sarkissian encouraged us” to do so, he said. Assad also praised Yerevan’s decision to normalize its relations with Turkey despite “many difficulties.”