US actor George Clooney (R) and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian lay flovers at the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan on April 24, 2016. (AFP PHOTO)
Hollywood star and rights advocate George Clooney on Sunday led thousands of Armenians on a march to a hilltop memorial in Yerevan to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the World War I-era Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
A staunch advocate of the massacre's recognition as genocide, Clooney arrived in the ex-Soviet nation on Saturday to take part in the hugely symbolic ceremonies.
Clooney, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and thousands of Armenians on Sunday laid flowers at the eternal flame at the imposing Tsitsernakaberd memorial as requiem services for the genocide victims were held in churches across Armenia.
The US actor and director co-chairs the selection committee of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity which was established on behalf of the Armenian genocide survivors.
The genocide "is a part of Armenia's history, it's also a part of the world's history, it's not the pain of one nation only," the star said upon his arrival in Yerevan.
The Hollywood heavyweight will name an inaugural recipient of the Aurora Prize during an award ceremony in the city later Sunday.
"Today, we commemorate the sacred memory of the victims of the Armenian genocide," Sarkisian said in a statement.
"The policy of denial of the official Turkey has not changed, as has not changed its hostile stance toward everything that is Armenian," he added.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million people were killed during World War I as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart, a claim supported by many other countries.
Turkey fiercely rejects the genocide label, arguing that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.