Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has condemned what he called crimes against "civilization" and demanded an apology from Turkey as the country, amid coronavirus restrictions, marked the 105th anniversary of the World War I-era massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
"The Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire was a crime not only against our ethnic identity but also against human civilization," Pashinian declared on April 24 in a televised address to the nation broadcast live from Yerevan's Tsitsernakabert Memorial Complex, where normally throngs of people would pay their respect to the victims of the tragedy.
Pashinian, along with President Armen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, and Catholicos Garegin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, visited the hilltop memorial separately, observing social-distancing rules aimed at stopping the spread of the virus in the country.
"More than a century has passed but the consequences of the genocide have not been eliminated," Pashinian said. "Turkey has not yet apologized for what it did."
Both Pashinian and Sarkisian thanked the three dozen countries, including the United States, France, Germany, and Russia, whose parliaments or governments have recognized the Armenian genocide.
Commemorations started late on April 23 when lights were turned off and church bells rang in an altered commemoration to the victims of the mass killing of Armenians.
A torch-lit procession traditionally held each year in Yerevan on the eve of April 24 was canceled due to the coronavirus epidemic, which has officially infected more than 1,590 people in Armenia and led to 27 deaths.
Last month, Armenia declared a state of emergency and imposed a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of infections.
During and immediately after World War I, as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed or deported from Anatolia, in what Armenians call "The Great Crime." Many historians, Armenia, and more than 30 countries consider the killings genocide.
As the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey objects to the use of the word genocide and describes the killings as "The Events of 1915."
Ankara says that about 500,000 Armenians died as a result of civil strife, disease, and starvation rather than a planned Ottoman government effort to annihilate them. Turkey also asserts that hundreds of thousands of Muslims died in Anatolia at the time due to combat, starvation, cold, and disease.