Er­do­gan of­fers con­do­lences for Ar­me­nian killings

Daily Trust - - INTERNATIONAL -

Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Tayyip Er­do­gan of­fered what the govern­ment said were un­prece­dented con­do­lences on Wed­nes­day to the grand­chil­dren of Ar­me­ni­ans killed in World War I by Ot­toman soldiers.

In a state­ment is­sued on the eve of the 99th an­niver­sary of the deeply con­tested deaths, Er­do­gan un­ex­pect­edly de­scribed the events of 1915 as “in­hu­mane”, us­ing more con­cil­ia­tory lan­guage than has of­ten been the case for Turk­ish lead­ers.

A Turk­ish govern­ment of­fi­cial said it was the first time a Turk­ish prime min­is­ter had of­fered such ex­plicit con­do­lences, but it was not im­me­di­ately clear if it would be enough to bring about a thaw in re­la­tions be­tween Ankara and its neighbor.

The ex­act na­ture and scale of what hap­pened dur­ing fight­ing that started in 1915 is highly con­tentious and continues to sour re­la­tions be­tween Turkey and Ar­me­nia, a for­mer Soviet repub­lic.

Turkey ac­cepts that many Ar­me­ni­ans died in clashes, but de­nies that up to 1.5 mil­lion were killed and that this con­sti­tuted an act of geno­cide - a term used by many Western his­to­ri­ans and for­eign par­lia­ments.

Ear­lier in April, for ex­am­ple, a U.S. Se­nate com­mit­tee res­o­lu­tion branded the mas­sacre of Ar­me­ni­ans as geno­cide.

Er­do­gan’s state­ment - un­usu­ally re­leased in nine dif­fer­ent lan­guages in­clud­ing Ar­me­nian - re­peated pre­vi­ous calls for di­a­log be­tween the two coun­tries, and the set­ting up of a his­tor­i­cal com­mis­sion to probe events sur­round­ing the killings.

“It is with this hope and be­lief that we wish that the Ar­me­ni­ans who lost their lives in the con­text of the early 20th century rest in peace, and we con­vey our con­do­lences to their grand­chil­dren,” he said.

“Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced events which had in­hu­mane con­se­quences - such as re­lo­ca­tion - dur­ing the First World War, should not pre­vent Turks and Ar­me­ni­ans from es­tab­lish­ing com­pas­sion and mu­tu­ally hu­mane at­ti­tudes among to­wards one an­other.”

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