Erdoğan meets Armenian patriarch after memorial for Armenian-Turkish lawmaker


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Armenian Patriarch Sahak Maşalyan on Thursday after a memorial ceremony for an Armenian-Turkish lawmaker, Hurriyet reported.

Erdoğan and his wife Emine attended a ceremony for Markar Esayan, an Armenian-Turkish lawmaker from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the Kumkapı Mother Mary Armenian Church.

Esayan was only 51 when he died from gastric cancer on 16 October 2020. He had been one of the first Armenians to sit in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, being elected in 2015.

Esayan had been a columnist for a number of newspapers in Turkey including Agos, Taraf, Yeni Şafak and Akşam. He also published three novels and a number of other books before becoming a deputy for the AKP.

According to Hurriyet, “The president was accompanied by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, as well as several party officials.”

The decision by so many high-level AKP figures to attend the memorial will be seen as a show of support for Turkey’s small Armenian community, who have recently voiced fears that they will be targeted by Turkish nationalists due to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Nationalist protesters have recently driven in convoys near to Armenian areas in Istanbul, prompting fears of violence from Armenian citizens of Turkey, as well as Armenian migrants from Armenia.

"As it was until today, so it shall be that we will continue to support the [local] Armenian community, which is an important color of richness that makes Turkey strong," Erdoğan said at the memorial.

Sahak Maşalyan, the Armenian Patriarch since 2019, said “In these hottest days of the Karabakh conflict, sharing our pain with us at an Armenian Church contains meaningful messages. This sad war in the Caucasus is not a religious war. It is not even a war of the Armenian and Azerbaijani nations. This is essentially a land struggle and a difficult knot left by the imperialist mind among the peoples”, Diken newspaper reported.

Addressing President Erdoğan, the Patriarch said “May my Lord turn you into messengers of peace and welfare so that the dark clouds of war can be dispersed. For your health and well-being, your Armenian citizens are always praying."

Commenting on Esayan, the Patriarch said “We need those holy people who will build bridges of friendship between Armenians and Turks, Azerbaijanis and Armenians like bread and water. How many disasters would have been prevented, how many lives would have been saved, who knows?”