Armenia marks 'genocide'

2010-04-24 22:32

Yerevan - Hundreds of thousands of people on Saturday marked the 95th anniversary of the mass slaughter of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, just days after Armenia halted a historic reconciliation deal with Turkey.

The 1915 murders of hundreds of thousands of Armenians has become an insurmountable obstacle for relations between the two countries. Armenia insists that Turkey recognise the slaughter as genocide.

On Saturday Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan laid flowers at a memorial for the victims in the capital Yerevan and thanked those countries which supported "our struggle for justice".

The slaughter and "annihilation of an ancient culture" was a deliberate policy of the Ottoman Turk government, Sargsyan said. "The instigators of this appalling crime expected that those who survived would lose their national identity, scattering across the globe," he continued.

The Armenian parliament unexpectedly halted the ratification process of normalisation accords signed with Turkey in October 2009. The accords were expected to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Sore point

But the protocols were still awaiting ratification by the parliaments in Ankara and Yerevan, each side accusing the other of adding new conditions after the agreement was struck.

Armenia said that Turkey was delaying its ratification of the accords, rendering its own ratification process "pointless".

The killings have also remained a sore point between the two sides as international debate continues about their definition as genocide. Armenia traditionally commemorates the murders on April 24, the day when the execution of intellectuals began.

Estimates of the number of those killed range from between 200 000 and 1.5 million.

Turkey has always denied that the killings constituted genocide, arguing that the Armenians had sided with the Russians against the Turks in the First World War.