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Sarkisian Urges Greater Recognition For Armenian Genocide

Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey (left) and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian inspect a Swiss honor guard.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian on May 3 urged more countries of the world to recognize the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide, saying that would not damage their relations with Turkey.

Making an official visit to Switzerland, Sarkisian cited a relevant resolution that was adopted by the Swiss parliament in 2003. He argued that its passage, strongly condemned by Ankara, did not prevent the Swiss government from mediating in Turkish-Armenian fence-mending negotiations held in 2008-10.

“By recognizing the genocide, Switzerland condemned that despicable crime against humanity and thereby...prevailed over all geopolitical and military-economic considerations,” Sarkisian said after talks with his Swiss counterpart, Micheline Calmy-Rey.

“Most importantly, that absolutely didn’t prevent Switzerland from supporting the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations within a short period of time,” he said at a joint news conference. “In this regard, Switzerland’s example is the best one, and it should serve as a lesson for many countries of the world.”

Sarkisian similarly stressed the importance of Armenian genocide recognition during Calmy-Rey’s visit to Yerevan in late March. He said he has personally asked U.S. President Barack Obama to utter the word "genocide" in reference to the deaths of as many as 1.5 Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.

Obama has declined to do that since taking office. In a statement issued in April 2009, Obama implied that he is not using the politically sensitive term to avoid antagonizing Turkey and setting back its rapprochement with Armenia facilitated by Switzerland and the United States.

The rapprochement led to the signing in Zurich in October 2009 of two Turkish-Armenian protocols on the full normalization of bilateral relations. Turkey subsequently made their parliamentary ratification conditional on the resolution of the dispute over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Sarkisian on May 3 again condemned this precondition. He also accused Ankara of trying to “drive a wedge” between Armenia and its worldwide diaspora. The latter has for decades been at the forefront of the genocide recognition campaign.

compiled from agency reports