Armenian community leader urges Turkey, Armenia to move beyond genocide dispute

10:39, March 27, 2010      

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The leader of Armenian community in Turkey on Friday urged Turkey and Armenia to move beyond the current genocide row to mend relations as the dispute cast a shadow over the two countries' normalization process. "The 1915 incidents sowed the seeds of discords between two close friends who loved each other ... We have to forget it and look forward," Bedros Sirinoglu, leader of Turkey's Armenian community, told reporters after being received by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.

His words came after a U.S. congressional panel and the Swedish parliament passed nonbinding resolutions that recognize the killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces during the World War I as genocide earlier this month, drawing ire from Ankara.

Armenians claim that more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a systematic genocide during the World War I, but the Turkish government insists the Armenians were victims of widespread chaos and governmental breakdown as the Ottoman empire collapsed before modern Turkey was created in 1923.

Sirinoglu said both Turks and Armenians suffered from what happened at that time, noting "we'll stay in the darkness if we keep digging up the issue (the killings)."

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic ties and signed protocols to normalize relations last October. The accords need to be ratified by the two countries' parliaments before taking effect.

Turkish authorities have warned the row over the "genocide" claims could hamper the normalization process. Erdogan was reportedly said earlier this month Turkey could deport 100,000 Armenians living in Turkey illegally but later explained he was misquoted by media.

Sirinoglu said there are 20,000 Armenian citizens living in Turkey and apologized for "misguiding" the prime minister about the number.

He told reporters he was hopeful about the normalization protocols as he believes Turkey and Armenia would learn lessons from the past.

Source: Xinhua
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