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Armenians Mark 94 Years Since Massacres Began

Armenians mark Genocide Rememberence Day in Yerevan.

Armenians mark Genocide Rememberence Day in Yerevan.

YEREVAN (Reuters) -- Armenians have flooded to a monument above Yerevan and laid flowers in remembrance of the World War I killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, even as the country looks to an historic accord with Turkey.

The neighbors announced late on April 22 they had agreed on a road map to normalize ties after a century of hostility that traces its roots to the 1915 mass killing and deportation of Armenians, a crime Armenia says was genocide.

A steady stream of thousands of people laid red tulips and white carnations around a flame set in a sunken bowl surrounded by 12 inward-leaning shields of grey basalt.

Each shield represents a Turkish province from which Armenians were expelled. Turkey accepts many Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks, but denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide.

The events remain a defining element in Armenian national identity, but some say it is time to move on.

"This generation knows nothing of the genocide. Step by step relations must be improved," said pensioner Aram Avetisyan, 58.

According to tradition, U.S. President Barack Obama will issue a statement recalling the killings, which he is already on record as calling genocide. Analysts, however, say he is unlikely to use the term on April 24 after the announcement by Ankara and Yerevan of a deal to normalize ties.

"Every one of our innocent victims has a name, a family, a story," Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, whose negotiations since last year with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul paved the way for the accord, said in a statement on April 24.

He repeated that "the process of recognition of the Armenian genocide is not directed against the Turkish people and recognition of the genocide by Turkey is not a precondition for the establishment of bilateral ties."

Many Armenians see fresh economic hope in ties with Turkey. The landlocked former Soviet republic, hemmed in by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, has been hit hard by the global economic crisis and the impact of close economic ally Russia sliding into recession.

"Economically, relations with Turkey are important given our location," said 22-year-old student Varduhi Varanyan. "It's useful for Turkey as well, but I don't think Armenians and Turks will ever become brothers."