Pope Tawadros says Armenia visit is spiritual, not political

Ahram Online , Monday 20 Apr 2015

The commemoration of the centennial of the Armenian genocide will take place between 20 and 26 April

Armenian protesters demonstrate near the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, January 28, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II said that his visit to Armenia aims to commemorate the victims of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman empire, denying any political connection between his trip and the diplomatic rift between Egypt and Turkey.

On Monday, Tawadros flew to Armenia leading a delegation of 115 Egyptian journalists and Armenian expats to participate in the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian genocide in the capital Yerevan.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1917 during the final days of the Ottoman Empire. Armenians have long tried to secure international recognition of the massacres as genocide.

Speaking to Al-Ahram Arabic news website on the plane, Tawadros said his visit represents pure religious support from the Coptic Church to its brotherly Armenian Orthodox church.

French President François Hollande, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades are also expected to attend the memorial, among other heads of states.

Delegations from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait and UAE will also be present.

The Egyptian government and the Coptic Church have recently condemned Turkey's long-standing refusal to admit its crimes against the Armenian people. 

Relations between Cairo and Ankara have soured since the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who was a close ally of Islamist Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan.

The Turkish leader has insisted that the ouster of Morsi in July 2013 amounted to a military coup.

Meanwhile, Egypt has accused Erdogan of providing safe haven for members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails.

The killings began after the Armenians were blamed for siding with the Russians during the ongoing world war one and the Young Turks, a movement of army officers who wanted to modernise the country, began a campaign to portray the Armenians as a kind of fifth column, a threat to the state.

Turkey, born from the remains of the Ottoman Empire, has vehemently denied a systematic mass killing of Armenians.

Armenia, which gained its independence in the aftermath of the fall of the former Soviet Union, has no diplomatic ties with Ankara due to animosity over accusations and denials on the issue.

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