YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia’s government on Tuesday dismissed as disingenuous “deep condolences” offered by Turkey to descendants of Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks a century ago.
Armenian leaders argued that Ankara continues to vehemently deny that 1.5 million Armenians were victims of a genocide masterminded and perpetrated by the Ottoman regime of “the Young Turks.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Turks “understand what the Armenians feel” about the 1915 mass killings and deportations. “We remember with respect the innocent Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives and offer our deep condolences to their descendants,” he said. “It is both a historical and humane duty for Turkey to uphold the memory of Ottoman Armenians and the Armenian cultural heritage.”
Davutoglu at the same time urged Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora to stop campaigning for greater international recognition of the genocide, saying that Turks were also massacred during the First World War. “Laying all blame – through generalizations – on the Turkish nation by reducing everything to one word and compounding this with hate speech is both morally and legally problematic,” he said.
Davutoglu went on to call on “all third parties” to avoid using the word genocide in order to honor “the Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives during the relocation in 1915.”
His statement was issued four days before Armenians around the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the genocide. It followed a series of furious statements by Turkish leaders, including Davutoglu, condemning Pope Francis and the European Parliament for again publicly recognizing the genocide last week. The Turkish premier went as far as to accuse the pontiff of inspiring anti-Turkish “racism.”
The Armenian Foreign Ministry scoffed at Davutoglu’s latest statement on Tuesday. “The author of last year’s denialist statement by [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan this year published it on his own behalf,” the ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, wrote on Twitter.
Balayan referred to first-ever official Turkish condolences to descendants of genocide victims which Erdogan offered in April 2014. Erdogan’s move, which highlighted a softening of the traditional Turkish policy of aggressive genocide denial, was hailed by the West but dismissed by Yerevan.
The Armenian leaders say that the Turkish government showed disrespect for the memory of the massacred Armenians by timing this year’s commemoration of the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli to coincide with the April 24 ceremonies to mark the genocide centennial.
Erdogan strongly defended the timing last month. He also claimed that Turks have suffered far more than Armenians over the past century and that Ankara has “over a million documents” showing that the Ottoman Empire never sought to exterminate its Armenian population.