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Europe

Turkey objects to Obama's statement on Armenian killings

Latest update : 2009-04-26

Turkey on Saturday called "unacceptable" US President Barack Obama's statement on the mass killings of Armenians, saying Turks and Muslims also died. Obama had avoided using the word genocide.

AFP - Turkey on Saturday objected to US President Barack Obama's statement on the Ottoman-era mass killings of Armenians, charging that it represented a unbalanced view of history and ignored the suffering of Turks during those years.
  
"We consider some expressions in (Obama's) statement and the perception of history it contains concerning the events of 1915 as unacceptable," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a written statement.
  
In his message to mark April 24, the day on which Armenians commemorate the killings, Obama refrained from using the word "genocide" despite a campaign promise to do so.
  
He instead used the Armenian term "Meds Yeghern" which has been variously translated as "The Great Calamity" or "Great Disaster". The term predates the use of the word "genocide" but is sometimes used by Armenians to refer to the killings.
  
The US President branded the killings of Armenians as "one of the great atrocities of the 20th century" but underlined that he had not changed his view that the massacres constituted genocide.
  
The Turkish ministry statement said that Obama's message had failed to mention the "several hundreds of thousands of Turks" killed in fighting between Turks and Armenians during those years.
  
"Common history of the Turkish and Armenian nations has to be assessed solely through impartial and scientific data and historians must base their evaluations only on such material," it added.
  
Armenians say 1.5 million of their people were victims of systematic killings from 1915 and many countries, including France and Canada, have officially recognised the killings as such.
  
Turkey categorically rejects the genocide label and argues that 300,000-500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians took up arms in eastern Anatolia and sided with invading Russian troops.
  
Speaking on the sidelines of a gas summit in Sofia, Turkey's President Abdullah Gul also said that the US President should have mentioned Turks killed in the events which coincided with the dissolution years of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey's predecessor.
  
"I do not agree with parts of (Obama's) statement... Everyone's pain must be shared," Gul said in televised remarks, adding that politicians should refrain from passing judgement on historical events.
  
Earlier this week, Turkey announced that it had agreed on a roadmap with Armenia to normalise relations in reconciliation talks mediated by Switzerland and held away from the public eye.
  
"Now is the time to look forward and... give diplomacy a chance," Gul said, adding that efforts were underway to resolve problems between Turkey and Armenia, as well as between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorny-Karabakh, an Armenian-majority enclave which broke away from Baku in the early 1990s.
  
Although Turkey was one of the first countries to recognise Armenia when it gained independence in 1991, Ankara has refused to establish diplomatic ties with Yerevan because of its international campaign to have the killings acknowledged as genocide.
  
In 1993, Turkey also shut its border with Armenia in a show of solidarity with close ally Azerbaijan over its conflict with Yerevan over the Nagorny Karabakh enclave.
  
Azerbaijan on Thursday urged Turkey to link reconciliation efforts with Armenia to the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorny Karabakh.
  
Earlier this month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruled out a deal with Armenia unless Yerevan resolved its conflict with Baku.

Date created : 2009-04-25

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