By PETER PRENGAMAN, Sun Oct 16, 9:54 PM ET
LOS ANGELES – Two recent insurance settlements for descendants of Armenians killed 90 years ago by the Turkish Ottoman Empire are a first step toward international recognition that the bloodshed was an act of genocide, the Armenian pontiff Catholicos Aram I said Sunday.
“The settlements will be helpful in raising awareness,” Aram I told The Associated Press in an interview. “If we are committed to preventing future genocide in the world, the world must recognize the genocide that has happened.”
The country is now facing pressure to fully acknowledge the event as it seeks membership in the European Union .
Last week, French life insurance company AXA agreed to pay $17 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by descendants of Armenians killed, splitting the money between about 5,000 people and charities. That came after New York Life Insurance Co. and heirs of some 2,400 policyholders agreed last year to a $20 million settlement, believed to be the first in connection with the disputed event.
The pontiff of the church‘s other branch, the Armenia-based Catholicosate of All Armenians, visited California in June. An estimated 500,000 Armenians live in Southern California.