Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis commemorated the Armenian Genocide on Friday, the eve of the 106th anniversary of the atrocity, which began on April 24, 1915.
“One hundred and six years after the crime of 1915, humanity does not forget the ethnic cleansing of a people, a massive and systematic crime, which, in fact, was organized when the eyes of the planet were focused on the muddy trenches of the First World War,” Mitsotakis stated on Friday.
“Today, therefore, as every April 24th, we honor the memory of the innocent victims, declaring our faith in respect for human life and dignity, because only peaceful coexistence leads peoples forward, turning their diversity into mutual wealth.”
Turkey denies existence of Armenian Genocide
The existence of the genocide has long been denied by Turkey, who claim that the large number of Armenians who died during the period were killed during clashes — not on a systematic basis dependent on their ethnicity, or a genocide.
Mitsotakis stressed on Friday that Greece has long recognized the suffering of the Armenian people, and has always affirmed that what happened in Turkey was, indeed, a genocide, saying “Greece also does not forget that at the beginning of the 20th century Greeks and Armenians lived together moments of martyrdom.
“That is why, even in difficult conditions itself, our country was one of the first to treat persecuted Armenians and recognize the Genocide of their people.”
President Biden set to recognize Armenian genocide
Biden is likely going to use the word “genocide” as part of a statement on April 24 when annual commemorations for the victims are held around the world, three sources familiar with the matter told the news agency.
In the event he actually uses this language, Biden would become the first US president to recognize the systematic killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 onward in modern-day Turkey as a “genocide,” a step already taken by the US Senate and the House of Representatives in 2019.
The move is likely to infuriate Turkey and further strain the already frayed ties between the two NATO allies.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday that any move by Biden to recognize the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as a genocide will “harm ties.”
“Statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties,” Cavusoglu said. “If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs,” he said.
The atrocities started with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople in 1915 and continued with a centralized program of deportations, murder, pillage and rape until 1923.
The history of the Armenian Genocide
Ordinary Armenians were then driven from their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water.
Ottoman death squads massacred Armenians, with only 388,000 left in the empire by 1923 from a population of two million in 1914. Turkey estimates the total number of deaths to be 300,000.
The countries of Armenia and Greece are inextricably linked by history, religion, and, sadly, tragic moments in history.
Along with the over 1.5 million Armenians killed during the Genocide in modern-day Turkey, hundreds of thousands of Greeks in Asia Minor were also killed. Some scholars estimate the number of Greeks killed ranged from 300,000 to 900,000.
Greek PM mentioned conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, stressed Greek-Armenian friendship
In his message to the Armenian people marking the genocide, the Greek PM also referenced the country’s recent bloody conflict with Azerbaijan, which was supported by Turkey, stating:
“Over time, Greece and the Caucasus walked together in mythology and history, culture and traditions. That is why our country could only stand by the side of the Armenians in their latest ordeal.”
There were widespread reports of war crimes, involving torture and beheadings, at the time of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Great Britain’s The Guardian newspaper has identified the two men beheaded in Armenia’s Nagorno-Karabakh region in an exclusive report published in early April.
The elderly ethnic Armenian men had refused to leave their villages when the Azerbaijani forces who took control of the area arrived, according to local people.
Videos of the atrocity in the village of Madatashen, committed by men who are wearing the uniforms of Azerbaijani forces, have been circulating widely around the world on social media since it occurred.
The recent flare-up of longstanding unrest in the area between the Armenians who lived in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijani forces backed by Turkey resulted in thousands of casualties and the forced relocation of ethnic Armenians from the region.
The men who were beheaded were not armed and were noncombatants, according to the people in their villages who knew them well.