On June 16 the UK House of Lords held a debate on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
“Her Majesty’s Government recognizes the terrible suffering inflicted on the Armenian people and other groups living in the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century,” James Stopford, the Earl of Courtown, said in response to a question by Baroness Caroline Cox on the Government plans to recognise the killings of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians in 1915 as genocide.
“While remembering and honouring the victims of the past, we believe that the UK’s priority should be to help the peoples and Governments of Turkey and Armenia to face their joint history together,” he added.
Baroness Cox reminded 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, on the basis of irrefutable evidence of the systematic slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. Noting that His Holiness Pope Francis has emphasised the necessity of genocide recognition for healing, reconciliation and moving forward, she asked whether Her Majesty’s Government would seriously consider reviewing their position.
“Her Majesty’s Government are aware of His Holiness the Pope’s comments during the papal mass to commemorate the victims of 1915, which was held in Rome. We respect his view and agree that it is important to face the lessons of history with courage and do all that we can to prevent similar atrocities. Her Majesty’s Government reviewed their position of recognition in 2013 and, at present, we have no plans to conduct another review,” the Earl of Courtown said.
Lord Lyndon Harrison noted, in turn, that “it is true that it was genocide that was practised on the Armenians and other peoples in 1915.” He emphasized the necessity of bringing together the Armenians and Turks in order to find reconciliation.
In response to that, James Stopford said:”We are trying to promote links between Turkey and Armenia in a number of ways. We have had a successful exchange of Turkish and Armenian Chevening alumni, who have visited each others’ countries for the first time. We have also targeted funding on projects such as CivilNet TV, which is a media source for Turkey-related news in Armenia.”
“In addition we have supported an initiative of our Armenian NGO to publish a book of personal stories from survivors about Turks who saved the lives of Armenians during the massacres and deportations of 1915,” he said.
“Our priority should be to promote reconciliation between the peoples and Governments of Armenia and Turkey and to enable the two countries to face their joint history together,” the Earl of Courtown said. In this context he said “it’s pleasing to see MPs of Armenian background in the Turkish Parliament.”
Speaking about the Karabakh conflict, James Stopford said “the status quo is not sustainable.”
“Twenty-one years have now passed since the ceasefire brought the active phase of the conflict to an end. For over 20 years the parties have not been able to reach a peace settlement. That has also meant over 20 years of continued hostility, hatred and suffering. The status quo is certainly not sustainable,” he stated.