Istanbul, April 16 () - Turkey has no reason to be defensive in the face of any motion to recognize the mass killing of Ottoman Armenians in World War I as “genocide” as it will never accept such “a crime and sin” President Tayyip Erdoğan has said.
The comments came amid accusations by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that Pope Francis has “joined the conspiracy” of an “evil front” targeting his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), after the pontiff referred to the mass killings of Ottoman Armenians as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”
“Why are we standing on the defensive? [The revelation of] a shame, a shadow like genocide is out of the question” Erdoğan said April 15, when asked to comment on the European Parliament’s move to debate the “Motion for Resolution on the Commemoration of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.”
“Whatever decision the European Parliament takes on Armenian genocide claims, it will go in one ear and out the other because it is not possible for Turkey to accept such a crime, such a sin” Erdoğan told a news conference at Ankara’s airport before departing on an official visit to Kazakhstan, just hours before the the European Parliament adopted the resolution that called Ankara to "recognize the genocide."
Recalling that around 100,000 Armenian migrants were currently living in Turkey, in addition to Armenian-origin citizens of the Republic of Turkey, Erdoğan said the state had never “discriminated against the Armenian people.” He also repeated an earlier argument that he made a few years ago, stating that Turkey was actually acting generously by not deporting the 100,000 undocumented migrants, although it could do so if it wished.
“Assuming such a stance against a country that has made all of these [services] is not acceptable,” Erdoğan said.
Pope Francis became the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to publicly call the killing of Armenians “genocide” on April 12, prompting Turkey to summon the Vatican’s ambassador to the Holy See and recall its own.
On April 14, Erdoğan had 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.
Meanwhile, at the Holy See at a weekly General Audience on April 15, Pope Francis met Dede Nail Kesova, the postnişin administering the Mevlevi Sufi Lodge or the Mevlevi Whirling Dervish Hall in Galata, and a whirling dervish, Murat Kanberi, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The two were in the Holy See for an event as part of interfaith dialogue and their participation in the General Audience was a coincidence.