Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
has accused Pope Francis of “joining the conspiracy” of an “evil front” targeting Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), after the pontiff referred to the killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”
“Currently, an evil front is being formed against us,” Davutoğlu said in the Ankara
meeting where his party’s election manifesto was announced and candidates running in the June 7 election were presented on April 15. “Now the pope has joined this conspiracy.”
Describing this “evil front,” Davutoğlu also pointed the finger at the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), accusing them of being foreign “projects” to undermine the AKP before the elections.
“I am addressing the pope: Those who escaped from the Catholic inquisition in Spain found peace in our just order in Istanbul and İzmir. We are ready to discuss historical issues, but we will not let people insult our nation through history,” he added, referring to Sephardic Jews who fled the Iberian Peninsula and found refuge in the Ottoman Empire
in the 15th century.
On April 14, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
also condemned Pope Francis, warning him to not repeat the “mistake” of describing the mass killings of Ottoman Armenians as “genocide.”
Armenia says up to 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians were killed in a genocide starting in 1915. Turkey denies that the deaths amounted to genocide, saying the death toll of Armenians killed during mass deportations has been inflated and that those killed in 1915 and 1916 were victims of general unrest during World War I.