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Armenians remember 1915 killings

Armenians at the memorial for victims of the 1915 killings in Yerevan (24 April 2009)
The march ended in the centre of the city at a monument to the victims

Thousands of people have taken part in a procession in Armenia to commemorate the mass killings of ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian reiterated that Turkey did not have to recognise the killings as genocide in order for the states to normalise ties.

Earlier this week, Armenia and Turkey said they had agreed on a roadmap towards normalising relations.

US President Barack Obama is to make a statement on the mass killings later.

However, analysts say he is unlikely to use the word "genocide" so as not to derail the agreement, which came just weeks after Mr Obama urged Turkey to come to terms with the past and resolve the issue.

In 2008, he said the "Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence".

Crimes against humanity don't expire in the memory of nations
Serzh Sarkisian
Armenian president

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in 1915, when they were deported en masse from eastern Anatolia to the Syrian desert and elsewhere. They were killed by Ottoman troops or died from starvation or disease.

Armenians have campaigned for the killings to be recognised internationally as genocide - and some countries have done so.

Turkey admits that many Armenians were killed but it denies any genocide, saying the deaths were part of the widespread fighting that took place in World War I.

'Recognition'

Huge crowds marched through the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on Friday to mark the 94th anniversary of the Ottoman-era killings.

Men stand besides the skulls and corpses of Armenian victims of the Turkish deportation circa 1915
Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died while being forced out of Anatolia

Many carried torches and candles, while others carried banners blaming Turkey for spilling the "blood of millions". Several Turkish flags were burned.

The procession ended in the centre of the city at a monument for the victims.

"Crimes against humanity don't expire in the memory of nations," President Sarkisian said in a statement.

"International recognition and condemnation of the Armenian genocide... is a matter of restoring historic justice."

But the president also reached out to Ankara, saying recognition of the "genocide" was not a precondition for building bilateral relations.

On Wednesday, the countries agreed to "develop good neighbourly relations in mutual respect and progress peace, security and stability in the entire region".

But their joint statement did not say how the neighbours would resolve their dispute over the killings, nor whether they had reached agreement on opening their joint border, which has been closed since 1993.



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