Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel seized the opportunity of his presence at the Francophone Summit in Yerevan, Armenia, to commemorate the Armenian genocide and honour its victims. Prime Minister Michel visited the ‘Tsitsernakaberd’ (‘Swallow Fort’ in Armenian) memorial dedicated to the victims of the genocide perpetrated in Turkey between 1915 and 1917, and planted a tree in memory of the victims.
The head of the Belgian Government observed a moment of silence in front of the memorial and laid a wreath of flowers there on behalf of Belgium. He also placed a white rose inside the twelve steles that make up the monument.
Michel exchange a few words with the President of the Belgian-Armenian Chamber of Commerce, Valéry Safarian, with whom he recalled that he had recognized the Armenian genocide in the Belgium’s Chamber of Representatives in 2015 on behalf of the Belgian Government.
“The Armenian community in Belgium is made up of 25,000 to 30,000 citizens, and I’m sure it will identify with your approach,” Safarian responded, thanking the Belgian Prime Minister for his action.
Charles Michel then planted the tree, as had other political personalities before him, such as François Hollande and Daniel Tusk, when they were president of France and prime minister of Poland respectively.
According to Armenia, up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed in two years of massacres perpetrated against Christians by the Ottoman Empire on the territory of present-day Turkey. Many Armenians were also deported. Turkey denies the genocide and Belgium’s recognition of it had greatly irritated Ankara.
The memorial, which overlooks the Armenian capital, is made up of a 44-metre high granite stele and 12 granite slabs placed in a circle. A wall along the tree-lined alley leading to the stele bears the inscription of the names of the main villages where the massacres took place. An underground museum was added in 1995.
French President Emmanuel Macron also went to the memorial to pay homage to the victims.