Local Armenian-American leaders say Turkish Prime Minister's statement falls short

Leaders of the Armenian community in Glendale said a  statement by the Turkish Prime Minister on Wednesday offering his condolences to descendants of Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago fell short because the country continues to refuse to characterize the deaths as a genocide.

The statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan come as Armenian-Americans in Glendale prepare to host a variety of events commemorating the genocide of about 1.5 million people.

Events include a candlelight vigil Wednesday night near the Civic Auditorium and an evening of song, dance and speeches on Thursday evening at the Alex Theatre.

“We do not see this as being something that is an adequate and appropriate acceptance of responsibility for the international crime that had been committed,” said Berdj Karapetian, chairman of the Glendale chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America.

He added that the condolences, which characterized the inhumane acts during World War I as a shared pain, whitewashed over the ethnic cleansing.

The United States also has yet to describe the massacres as a genocide, although many local governments across the country, such as Glendale, have done so.

Erdogan also said in his statement that past events with “inhumane consequences” should not prevent Armenians and Turks from “establishing compassion and mutually humane attitudes towards one another.”

Mayor Zareh Sinanyan called the statement weak and indirect.

“I think his statement is evasive and insincere. It’s not the condolences Armenians expect from the leader of the Republic of Turkey,” Sinanyan said, adding that, in his mind, the statement was meant to stymie the significance of genocide-related commemorative events that take place around the world on April 24.

Sinanyan, like others, said that an apology and a showing of remorse is necessary for healing.

“There has got to be meaningful action,” he said.

Meanwhile, according to the Los Angeles Times, Turkish scholars called the statement historic because of its conciliatory tone.

-- Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

Follow on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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