Serge Sarkisian on Armenian-Turkish Relations 'We Wanted to Break Through Centuries of Hostility'

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Rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia is still far from sight. In an interview with SPIEGEL, Armenian President Serge Sarkisian explains why the recognition of genocide against his people is so important -- and why he is little surprised by hostilities from Turkish politicians.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, in 2008, you attended a football match between your two countries together with your Turkish counterpart. It was a sensation at the time. Do you regret having invited the president of Turkey to your capital?

Sarkisian: No. I am convinced there is no other alternative but for Turks and Armenians to cooperate. We wanted to break through centuries of hostility. It was clear to me from the beginning that it wouldn't be an easy process.

SPIEGEL: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told SPIEGEL that on the topic of Armenians killed by Ottoman troops during World War I, "There can be no talk of genocide against the Armenians." Why does your neighbor have such difficulty with its own history?

Sarkisian: Mr. Erdogan has also said that Turks are not capable of committing genocide, and that Turkish history is "as clean and clear as the sun." Turkey resists classifying the massacre as genocide. But no matter how great Turkish resistance may be, this is not a question that is up to Ankara to decide.

SPIEGEL: Now Erdogan is even threatening to expel thousands of Armenians living illegally in Turkey.

Sarkisian: For my people, such unacceptable comments evoke memories of the genocide. Unfortunately, these comments don't surprise me, coming from the mouth of a Turkish politician. We don't need to look very far back in history to find comparable declarations. Similar voices got loud in 1988 in what is today Azerbaijan. Dozens of Armenians died in the resulting pogroms in Azerbaijani cities like Sumgait and Baku....

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