Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed Pope’s “genocide” remarks as “baseless claims,” after Ankara reacted to the pontiff referring to the 1915 incidents as “genocide.”
Cavusoglu said: “Pope’s statement is devoid of any historical or legal facts. Religious posts are not for fueling grudge and hatred with baseless claims.”
Ankara has summoned the Vatican envoy to Turkey and conveyed the message that the incident has caused “loss of trust” and would be met with a response.
Cavusoglu’s remarks came after Pope Francis called the 1915 incidents involving Armenians “genocide” on Sunday at the St. Peter Basilica.
“In the past century, our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies,” Pope said.
“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.
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.
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 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.”