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Armenian President Defends Turkey Policy

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian speaks at a meeting of top representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church on November 2.
YEREVAN -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian defended his reconciliation policy with Turkey at a meeting of leading clerical and secular representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church on November, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

At a meeting chaired by Catholicos Garegin II, the head of the Armenian Church, Sarkisian added that his administration will not stop seeking international recognition of the mass killings of ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide or make additional concessions to Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Critics of Sarkisian's rapprochement protocols signed with Turkey on October 10 say the president complicated the process by accepting a Turkish proposal to set up a joint panel of history experts looking into the World War I-era mass killings and deportations of Armenians from the Ottoman Empire.

They argue that Ankara will exploit the panel to prevent more countries from recognizing the killings as genocide.

Some critics add that as part of its "football diplomacy" with Turkey, Armenia covertly agreed to speed up the resolution of the Karabakh conflict by making more concessions to Azerbaijan.

Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said on October 30 that the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement -- which means the reopening of the countries' border and the establishment of diplomatic ties -- and the Karabakh negotiations are "two separate processes."

The Armenian Church has been split on the matter.

Garegin and top clerics directly subordinated to him voiced support for Sarkisian's Turkey policy last month.

Meanwhile, the Lebanon-based Catholicos Aram I, the second most powerful figure in the Armenian Church's worldwide hierarchy, openly condemned the Turkish-Armenian agreements.

Aram controls several church dioceses in the Middle East and the United States and is believed to maintain close ties with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), which fiercely opposes Sarkisian's overtures toward Ankara.