The Swiss foreign ministry has recommended not erecting an Armenian genocide memorial in Geneva as originally planned in another setback for the project, according to Swiss public radio.
The RTS reported on Tuesdayexternal link that a letter from Foreign Minister - and serving Swiss President - Didier Burkhalter addressed to the canton of Geneva recommended turning down the construction of a memorial “Les Réverbères de la Mémoire”external link in the city’s Ariana Park, which is near the United Nations.
This is the latest twist in the long-running saga over the monument, which started in 2008. Originally designed to be located in the Geneva Old Town, the memorial was due to be moved to the park. But this could again be subject to change, the RTS has learned.
Following a meeting between Geneva cantonal ministers François Longchamp and Antonio Hodgers and Burkhalter two weeks ago in Bern, a letter was addressed to Geneva recommending that the relevant cantonal authority “refuses to grant a building permit in the planned location”.
This is in order to “preserve an impartial and peaceful setting allowing the United Nations and other international organisations to carry out their functions in the best possible working conditions”, according to the text seen by RTS.
However, the Geneva city authorities still want to erect the eight-metre bronze memorial, by French artist Melik Ohanian, in the Ariana Park but say other locations will be considered if they are refused a permit by the canton. Beaulieu and Cropettes parks are also under consideration.
Supporters of the memorial have criticised the latest development. Ueli Leuenberger, one of the co-presidents of Swiss parliamentary group Switzerland-Armenia, told RTS that he felt that Switzerland had given in to pressure from the Turkish authorities.
The Armenians say Ottoman Turks slaughtered up to 1.8 million Armenians in a planned genocide between 1915 and 1918. Turkey denies the mass killings were genocide, saying the death toll is inflated.
The Swiss House of Representatives recognised the Armenian massacre as genocide in 2003, but neither the Senate nor the cabinet has officially done so.
swissinfo.ch with agencies