ANKARA — Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister says that Pope Francis’ describing the World War I-era killings of 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide is a “great disgrace” which Ankara does not “take seriously.”

In the first public response from the Turkish government since Pope Francis used the term while meeting with Armenia’s political leaders Friday, Nurettin Canikli said Saturday: “We will not take this declaration seriously.”

“The goal is to squeeze Turkey in the corner,” Canikli said, accusing Pope Francis of siding with European Union values. “It is, unfortunately, possible to see all the reflections and traces of crusader mentality in the actions of the papacy and the pope.”

“It is not compatible with reality,” Canikli said in an interview posted with the Turkish Hurriyet news website. “We all know it. The whole world knows it, including the Armenians.”

Canikli continued: “In our history there does not exist something of this type. It is not possible because our faith and our traditions absolutely reject these types of things from the start.”

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, in a speech on Friday on his arrival in Armenia, described the massacre of Armenians as genocide, “made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors.”

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