Ottoman massacre of Armenians remembered across Europe
The Armenian community in France and elsewhere in Europe held solemn masses, marches and memorials on Sunday to mark the 90th anniversary of mass killings by Ottoman Turks which a growing number of countries have recognised as a genocide.
The Parisian landmark of Notre Dame cathedral hosted a requiem mass Sunday and many other gatherings took place across the city.
Some 350,000 ethnic Armenians live in France.
French Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande told the gathering of 3,000, mostly Armenians, that he would propose a law in parliament to penalize those who deny the genocide.
"The Armenian genocide was the first of the 20th century, but, alas, not the only one. The Armenian cause is not only for Armenians, but for all those who are committed to human rights and the recognition of genocide," Hollande said.
The protesters later marched to the capital's famed Champs Elysees avenue and the nearby Turkish embassy.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen perished in orchestrated killings between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart. Ankara counters that 300,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in "civil strife" during World War I.
Some 80,000 Armenians live in the Mediterranean port of Marseille, where the cornerstone of an Armenian monument due to be inaugurated next year was put in place Sunday. The stone included written messages from some of the region's ethnic Armenian children.
A requiem mass and a march to a proposed site of a genocide memorial took place in the central city of Lyon, while a wreath was placed at a war memorial in the northeastern city of Strasbourg.
Armenian religious and community leaders headed a cortege of around 1,000 people in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv carrying candles and red carnations.
Greece recognised the massacres as a genocide in 1997 when it named April 24 as "The memorial day of the genocide of Armenians by the Turkish regime" and in Athens on Sunday a crowd of 500 including diplomats and Greek officials placed a wreath at a war memorial.
The row over whether or not to call the killings genocide has embarrassed Turkey as it readies for the start of European Union accession talks later this year.
In Germany this week members of parliament from across the political spectrum appealed to Turkey to accept the massacre of Armenians as part of its history, saying this would help its EU aspirations.
On Tuesday, Poland joined a list of 15 countries that have officially acknowledged the killings as genocide. Russia, the UN and the European parliament all recognise the massacres as genocide.