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Yesterday (16th June), Baroness Cox raised a short oral question in the House of Lords, asking the British Government “whether they have any plans to recognise the killings of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians in 1915 as genocide.” In the year of the 100th anniversary of the killings, this is a particularly relevant issue, and Baroness Cox asked the Government to carry out a review of their current refusal, set out in 2013, to recognise the atrocities as genocide.
Baroness Cox pointed out that “over 20 states have recognised the genocide, including France, Canada, Poland, Chile and Austria, as well as the European Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.” She highlighted the “irrefutable evidence of the systematic slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians”.
The Minister said the Government recognises “the terrible suffering inflicted on the Armenian people and other groups living in the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century”. The Government believes that it is possible to “help the peoples and Governments of Turkey and Armenia to face their joint history together” without acknowledging this as genocide. But Baroness Cox reminded the Minister that Pope Francis recently “emphasised the necessity of genocide recognition for healing, reconciliation and moving forward”.
Baroness Cox’s question sparked further debate about Turkish-Armenian relations and the relationship between the EU and Armenia. Baroness Ludford asked the Government whether they would encourage Turkey and Armenia to set up a joint historical inquiry. Questions were also asked about Armenia’s membership negotiations with the EU. Closer Armenian relations with the EU could play a role in efforts to resolve the long-running conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, where the lack of reconciliation between ethnic Armenians and their neighbours are still painfully evident.
Although the British Government refused to review its position on the 1915 Armenian atrocities, it remains important to raise awareness of the issue and to remember the victims.