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Armenians Mark 104 Years Since Ottoman-Era Killings

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People walk to the Tsitsernakabert memorial in Yerevan on April 24 during an annual commemoration of the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.

Commemoration ceremonies are being held in Armenia on April 24 to mark the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 104 years ago.

In Yerevan, hundreds of thousands of people marched to the Tsitsernakaberd hilltop memorial to lay flowers at the eternal flame that commemorates victims of what Armenia describes as genocide.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian with his wife, other officials, and politicians were among the visitors to the memorial on April 24.

The U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Lynne Tracey, also attended that ceremony. She told journalists she came to the memorial to honor memories of the victims.

"The United States does not deny historical facts, and the fact is that what took place in 1915 was one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century. But we remain encouraged by the resiliency of the Armenian people and that is also what today is about," Tracey said.

U.S. President Donald Trump used similar wording in a statement, steering clear of the word "genocide" but using the Armenian-language term Meds Yeghern, or "great calamity."

Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, issued a statement expressing disappointment with Trump's comments.

"The failure to squarely acknowledge the Armenian genocide reflects a pattern not only in this year's presidential statement, but past administrations as well, that fosters an atmosphere for denial and empowers authoritarian regimes to persecute Christians and other minorities," Ardouny said.

The World War I-era mass slaughter and deportation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire is formally recognized as genocide by the U.S. House of Representatives and 49 of the 50 U.S. states, but U.S. presidents and their administrations have avoided it.

"Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire," Trump said in the statement. "On this day of remembrance, we again join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the many lives lost."

Trump said that the United States honors and recognizes "the work of those who tried to end the violence, as well as those who sought to ensure atrocities like this would not be repeated, like human rights activist and lawyer Raphael Lemkin" -- a lawyer who defined the term genocide after World War II.

"We pledge to learn from past tragedies so as to not to repeat them," the U.S. president said. "We welcome the efforts of Armenians and Turks to acknowledge and reckon with their painful history. And we stand with the Armenian people in recalling the lives lost during the Meds Yeghern and reaffirm our commitment to a more peaceful world."

The countries and international bodies that recognize the killings as genocide include Russia, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Poland, and the European Parliament, and some countries outlaw "Armenian genocide" denial.

Turkey and its close ally Azerbaijan are the only countries that directly deny statements about historical facts related to the era.

They say Armenians died in much smaller numbers and because of civil strife rather than an organized and systemic effort by the Ottoman government to annihilate the Christian minority.

Ankara opposes the recognition of genocide by other countries, threatening economic and diplomatic retaliation to those that do so.

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