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Turkey's EU Minister rejects Pope's 'genocide' remark

Papal statement -- which called 1915 incidents 'genocide' -- 'tries to derive enmity out of history,' Minister Bozkir says.

  | 12.04.2015
Turkey's EU Minister rejects Pope's 'genocide' remark

ANKARA 

Turkey's EU Minister Volkan Bozkir has rejected Pope Francis' statements over the 1915 incidents, which the pontiff described as "genocide" on a Sunday Mass.

Pope Francis called the 1915 incidents involving Armenians "genocide" during a Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite at the St. Peter's Basilica, which Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan also attended.

"I reject the Papal attitude, which should strive to leave a legacy of peace and friendship for future generations, but instead tries to derive enmity out of history," said Turkey's EU Minister via Twitter.

"There is no period of time in Turkey's history that it would be ashamed of. Efforts towards constituting an identity based on falsified documents will fail," he said.

Bozkir also said Pope's "ill-fated" statement also gave credence to the ASALA terrorism, which resulted in the martyrdom of 42 Turkish diplomats.

In 1975 and 1984, Turkish ambassadors and diplomats were targeted around the world by Armenian terrorist organization ASALA. With the motive of “compelling Turkish Government to acknowledge publicly its responsibility for the so-called Armenian genocide in 1915, pay reparations and cede territory for an Armenian homeland,” ASALA killed a total of 42 Turkish diplomats in different attacks within a decade.

"Pope Francis' history-falsifying statements are null and void for Turkey and Turkish nation," Bokzir added.

Pope said during Sunday's Mass: "In the past century, our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies.”

"The first, which is widely considered the first genocide of the twentieth century, struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks and, more recently, there have been other mass killings, like those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia," the pontiff said.

The Ottoman Empire relocated Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts and there were Armenian casualties during the relocation process.

Armenia has demanded an apology and compensation, while Turkey has officially refuted Armenian allegations over the incidents saying that, although Armenians died during the relocations, many Turks also lost their lives in attacks carried out by Armenian gangs in Anatolia.

The Turkish government has repeatedly called on historians to study Ottoman archives pertaining to the era in order to uncover what actually happened between the Ottoman government and its Armenian citizens. 

The debate on “genocide” and the differing opinions between the present day Turkish government and the Armenian diaspora, along with the current administration in Yerevan, still generates political tension between Turks and Armenians. 

Turkey's official position against allegations of “genocide” is that it acknowledges the past experiences were a great tragedy and that both parties suffered heavy casualties, including hundreds of Muslim Turks.

Ankara agrees that there were certainly Armenian casualties during World War I, but says that it is impossible to define these incidents as “genocide.”

In 2014, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his condolences for the first time to all Ottoman citizens who lost their lives in the events of 1915.

"May Armenians who lost their lives in the events in the early twentieth century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren," Erdogan said.

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