Turkey reacts to Obama, Putin, Hollande, Gauck over Armenian killings remarks
From left to right, German President Gauck, French President Hollande and US President Obama are seen.Turkey has reacted to the U.S., Russia, Germany and France over the wording their leaders picked in remarks on the killing of Armenians in the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying these countries, excluding the U.S., should look at their own history first.
“I invite the countries which have lent support to the Armenian claims to clean the stains in their own histories first,” Erdoğan said as he addressed the members of the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD) in Ankara on April 25.
“The last country to tell me anything on this issue is Germany,” he said, adding Russia and France to such a list.
“We wished that Mr. Putin, Mr. Hollande did not go to Armenia,” the president said, referring to the April 24 ceremonies in the Armenian capital of Yerevan to commemorate the victims.
Turkey’s Battle of Gallipoli ceremony in Çanakkale the same day was not linked to the Yerevan event, Erdoğan said, still comparing the number of attendees to the two incidents.
“Two heads of states went there [in Yerevan]. Thank God, 20 heads of state came to us,” he said.
Beside Hollande and Putin, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiadis were present at the Yerevan ceremony.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry accused U.S. President Barack Obama of making a statement “disconnected from the facts,” as this was the most moderate response among the four statements.
Ankara reminded France and Germany of the large Turkish or Turkish-origin community on their soil as it accused Russia for “knowing the genocide and its legal dimensions well.”
Obama's statement ‘unilateral’
A statement made by U.S. President Barack Obama on the 1915 events, in which he refrained from using the word "genocide," was "problematic," the Foreign Ministry said on April 24.
The comments came one day after Obama said in an annual commemoration statement the incidents were the first "atrocity" of the last century.
The ministry said Obama's statement was "unilateral" and "disconnected from the facts that carry sensitivity for Turkish population as it was from Armenian perspective."
Obama's remarks were far away "from evaluating on the basis of fair memory" the painful parts of Turkish and Armenian history, it said.
The statement added that a message from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2014, and one from Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in 2015 for Armenians were texts "that reflect carefully the terms of Turkey's point of view" regarding the events.
It went on: "These, without denying the painful events of the past, share the correct definitions and attitudes [of the events]."
"Furthermore, these [messages] offer a sincere call to rebuild our common future."
"This year we mark the centennial of the Meds Yeghern, the first mass atrocity of the 20th century," Obama had said in his speech:
"Beginning in 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths."
Russia ‘knows about genocide’
The Foreign Ministry said on April 24 that it condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for the word "genocide."
"Taking into account the mass atrocities and exiles in Caucasus, in the Central Asia and Eastern Europe committed by Russia for a century; collective punishment methods such as Holodomor as well as inhumane practices especially against Turkish and Muslim people in Russia’s own history, we consider that Russia is best-suited to know what exactly “genocide” and its legal dimension are," a Foreign Ministry statement said.
Turkey also condemned Duma's April 24 resolution that described the 1915 events as "genocide."
"The only thing that Russia can do in this issue is to leave its biased attitude aside and encourage Armenia and the Armenians to respond positively to the calls of Turkey for peace and friendship," the statement added.
On April 25, Dmitri Peskov, the spokesperson of Putin, responded to the statement, noting that his country and Armenia have been in good relations and many Armenian-origin people live in Russia.
He called on the Turkish officials who prepared the statement “that targets Russia” to read Putin’s speech in Yerevan carefully.
“I see no reason for Turkey to make a negative evaluation,” he said.
French attitude ‘unjust, partial’
Turkey condemned France's "unjust and partial attitude" to the deaths of Armenians in 1915 late on April 24.
"French President Francois Hollande participated, as he had announced long time ago, at the ceremony held in Yerevan on 24 April, 2015, which instead of being a commemoration for the losses incurred in the past, turned out to be an occasion to slander Turkish identity, history and society," the Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement.
The statement added that Hollande had "regrettably reiterated his support to the Armenian nationalist narrative."
Hollande urged Turkey in Yerevan to end its refusal to recognize the deaths as "genocide."
"It would have been expected from President Hollande that during these ceremonies he would acknowledge that, regardless of religion or ethnicity, all Ottoman citizens endured tragic sufferings during the process of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire," the statement added.
"Such an approach, which does not discriminate between the sufferings of those who belong to different religions, would have undoubtedly been seen as a positive and embracing attitude by the 600,000 Turks living in France."
France "unfortunately preferred to continue its discriminatory approach and Turkey unequivocally rejects and condemns France's unjust and partial attitude."
Similarly, a speech by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Paris on April 24 was denounced on the grounds that he "distorted historical facts and violated legal principles at an event he participated [in] which was not held with the understanding of harvesting peace and friendship from history but rather hostility."
Turkish nation ‘will not forgive’ German president
The ministry also criticized German President Joachim Gauck on April 24 after he referred to the 1915 incidents as "genocide."
The response from the ministry came one a day after Gauck referred to the tragedy of a century ago as a "genocide" in remarks he made at a memorial service at the historical Berlin Cathedral.
The ministry said in a statement his comments were "baseless allegations directed towards Turkish identity, history and society."
It added: "Contrary to law and historical facts, President Gauck has not the right to attribute on the Turkish people a crime which they have not committed."
"It is expected from the authorities who represent social unity, integrity and harmony, to take the sensitivities of all the members of the society into consideration and express a more embracing approach," it read.
The statement went on: "In this sense, it is astonishing that President Gauck has also disregarded the opinions of hundreds of thousands of Turkish-German citizens whom he also represents."
It sait the “Turkish nation will not forget and forgive President Gauck's statements."
German lawmakers from governing parties and the opposition submitted on April 24 draft parliamentary motions to parliament which labeled the incidents in 1915 as "genocide."
The statement added: "We hope that Bundestag, which plans to discuss a resolution on the events of 1915 in the forthcoming days, takes a neutral and constructive stance and does not present an approach which would have long term negative repercussions on Turkish-German relations."
Envoys were recalled
Turkey denies that the killings, at a time when Turkish troops were fighting Russian forces during World War I, constituted genocide. It has said there was no organized campaign to wipe out Armenians and no evidence of any such orders from Ottoman authorities.
Turkey’s ambassador to the Vatican was summoned to Ankara for consultations on April 12, hours after Pope Francis called the 1915 incidents involving Armenians “genocide.”
Austria was subjected to a similar reaction by Ankara, as Turkey recalled its ambassador in Vienna on April 22 after parties represented in the Austrian parliament signed a declaration recognizing the massacre of Armenians a century ago as “genocide.”
However, Turkey initially avoided any harsh reaction toward Putin and French President François Hollande, after they described the killings as “genocide" during the commemoration ceremony in Yerevan.
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız told journalists during a reception in Ankara on April 23 that he was surprised by Putin’s remarks, but the statement “will not affect the ongoing negotiations for joint projects” with Russia, including natural gas trade.
Just hours before the ceremony marking the centennial anniversary, Turkish Prime Minister Davutoğlu said the required initiatives would be taken concerning Russia.