LONDON — The co-mayors of Bitlis and Mutki just paid a courtesy visit to St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Kensington, London. Huseyin Olan (Bitlis) and Ozcan Birlik (Mutki), who are on a working visit to London, met with the Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic church in Great Britain, bishop Hovakim Manukyan, to discuss improving contacts between the Armenian diaspora and Kurdish communities in south-eastern Turkey. The meeting included Ali Gul Ozbek, the mayor of Haringey, as well as others.

Both Olan and Birlik are longstanding champions of better Kurdish Armenian relations and are well aware of the history of Armenians. Over the years they have hosted Armenian guests in their cities, supported exhibitions on Ottoman Armenians, and even a conference on the Armenian Genocide. The city of Bitlis even renamed a street after William Saroyan. These are all ongoing practical steps aimed at addressing Armenian issues and paving the way to a better future.

On the occasion of their visit to St. Sarkis, the co-mayors issued a formal statement inviting Armenians to reengage with their ancestral lands in Turkey, including Bitlis and Mutki

Statement Dated 11 September 2016

Today we are visiting our Armenian brothers and sisters at St. Sarkis Armenian church in London. It is good to see this fine church and members of its congregation in one of the great capitals of the world. There used to be many such Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire, within the borders of modern Turkey. They lived on their ancestral lands alongside other communities, until 1915, when they were subjected to the first genocide of the modern era. Over a million Armenians were killed by their own government. Modern Turkey still bears the scars of those days, including in Bitlis and Mutki, where we come from. The Turkish republic still denies what happened to Armenians.

We can never reverse the terrible legacy of 1915 but, as the mayors of Bitlis and Mutki, we can express our sorrow and extend our hands of friendship to all Armenians. We want to build new bridges with you, to replace those that were destroyed in the past. The future is in our hands and we can still imagine better days ahead. We hope to see you again in Bitlis and Mutki.

Hüseyin Olan (co-mayor of Bitlis) and Özcan Birlik (co-mayor of Mutki)

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