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Armenian religious leader hails Turkish PM’s condolence, urges follow-up

The religious leader of Turkey’s Armenians expressed optimism as he praised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent extension of condolences to the grandchildren of Armenians killed in World War I by Ottoman soldiers. Aram Ateşyan, the acting head of the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey, also stressed that “mutual sacrifices” were required to build a viable friendship and a bridge of peace, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

“Whatever is required for friendship, both sides shall make sacrifices. I can’t know what will happen. If you want to be friends, it is not just about saying ‘I love you’ to that person. That is not love, love requires sacrifice. Both sides shall make sacrifices so a bridge of friendship is built,” Ateshyan told reporters on May 1 after a meeting with Erdoğan.

He was accompanied by leading figures of the Armenian community during the meeting with the prime minister, which came days after Erdoğan reiterated on April 29 a call for Armenia and Armenians living abroad to participate in “research” with Turkey to document what happened.

While maintaining that the time had come for the Armenian and Turkish people to “come together,” Ateshyan said “nobody should play the three monkeys” by willfully ignoring the grievances experienced, in which tens of thousands of people lost their families.

Describing Erdoğan’s condolence message as a “watershed,” Ateshyan referred to the story of the dove and the olive, from the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark.

“Like the dove that the Prophet [Noah] sent, our honorable prime minister extended an olive branch. We cannot ignore it. This olive branch is a peace symbol. We don’t want this branch to dry out. Now we want to plant this branch and want it to yield fruit,” Ateshyan said, adding that “everybody’s support” was necessary to make this happen.

“Two societies lived together in fraternity for centuries and today we are longing for those days. Our call is to both sides: Come next to each other and lay the foundation of the bridge of friendship and peace,” he said.

“I believe that this first step initiated by our honorable prime minister has been met with appreciation by the majority of our community. As the Patriarchate, we also regard it with appreciation,” the patriarch added.

In response to questions, Ateshyan said Erdoğan did not disclose anything with regard to further reconciliation steps.

Ateshyan said he left the meeting in happiness and hopeful for the future.

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