Erdogan: Turkey ready to open military archives over 1915 events

recep tayyip erdoğan
Turkish President Erdogan commemorates 'all the heroes of the Battle of Gallipoli' at Istanbul Peace Summit.

Turkey has always expressed that it was ready to open its archives, namely the military ones, with regards to the recent controversy surrounding  1915 events, said Turkey’s President in an Istanbul summit Thursday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed his guests at the last session of Peace Summit – part of centenary commemorations of the 1915 Battle of Canakkale (Gallipoli) – which was held in Istanbul with such attendees as the UK’s Prince Charles, Australian Prime Minister Tim Abbott and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

“I would like to address to the European Union. They have been advising us to open our archives. I have always been saying (…) we are ready to open our archives,” he said, adding that there were millions of documents. “We are also ready to open our military archives.”

Last week, the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognizing the 1915 events as “genocide.” It came three days after Pope Francis also called the 1915 incidents a “genocide,” drawing sharp criticism from the Turkish government. 

On Wednesday, Turkey summoned its ambassador in Vienna hours after the Austrian Parliament described the 1915 events as “genocide.”

Erdogan reiterated that historical documents about the 1915 events were open to all for analysis and called on Armenia and other countries to open their archives as well.

Turkey has called for the establishment of a joint commission of historians and the opening of archives to study and uncover what happened between the Ottoman empire and its Armenian citizens.

The 1915 events took place during World War I when a portion of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman empire sided with the invading Russians and revolted. 

The relocation by the Ottomans of Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts resulted in numerous casualties. Turkey does not dispute that there were casualties on both sides, but rejects the definition of “genocide.”

‘Heroes of the Battle of Gallipoli’

During his speech, he of course touched on the Canakkale Battle. The year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the battle in the Dardanelles Strait in Canakkale province’s district of Gallipoli, which served as a turnaround in favor of the Turks fighting in World War I against the Allied Forces.

“The lessons we take from the past as all parties of Gallipoli wars will shed light on our future,” he said. “I hereby commemorate all the heroes of the Battle of Gallipoli, who turned it into a ‘Gentlemen’s War’.”

Commemorations are taking place around the world this week to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle, which involved forces from Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Turkey, all of which suffered heavy casualties. 

Prince Charles of England, Australian Prime Minister Tim Abbott and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key were in Istanbul to attend the Istanbul Peace Summit.   

“As winners and losers, affected directly or indirectly by the Battle of Gallipoli, we are together here at the Peace Summit,”said Erdogan on Thursday.

At least 21 heads of state will attend ceremonies in Canakkale on Friday and Saturday. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Iraqi President Fuad Masum, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and the president of the Syrian National Coalition Khalid Khoja will also attend the ceremony.

The victory against the Allied Forces in the Dardanelles Strait gave Turkey a massive boost in morale, which enabled it to wage a war of independence and eventually, in 1923, to form a republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, that was led by the Turkish Republic’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.