Turkey draws red line over geno­cide recog­ni­tion

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY STU­ART WIL­LIAMS

Re­ject­ing world­wide pres­sure, Turkey has drawn a de­fi­ant red line in re­fus­ing to rec­og­nize the mass killings of Ar­me­ni­ans in World War I as geno­cide on the 100th an­niver­sary year of the tragedy.

Turkey’s tough ap­proach on the is­sue was shown Sun­day by Ankara’s in­cen­di­ary re­ac­tion to the use by Pope Fran­cis of the word “geno­cide” to de­scribe the killings, sum­mon­ing the Vat­i­can nun­cio and re­call­ing the Turk­ish en­voy to the Holy See.

Prime Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu, in an un­usual attack by a world leader on the pon­tiff, ac­cused Fran­cis of a “one-sided” and “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” at­ti­tude that he said ig­nored the suf­fer­ing of Mus­lims in World War I.

The ex­changes have in­ten­si­fied ten­sions ahead of the 100th the an­niver­sary of the start of the killings on April 24.

Even be­fore the pope waded into the con­tro­versy, Ar­me­ni­ans ac­cused Turkey of try­ing to over­shadow what they call their geno­cide com­mem­o­ra­tions by stag­ing cer­e­monies on the same day to mark the cen­te­nary of the fa­mous World War I battle of Gal­lipoli.

“Mind your own busi­ness, Pope,” screamed the head­line in the pro­gov­ern­ment Star daily. “The New Cru­sade,” fumed the Ay­din­lik daily

A Turk­ish gov­ern­ment source told AFP that Ankara had been “truly sur­prised” by the com­ments, which were made in a Mass in Saint Peter’s Basil­ica at the Vat­i­can to mark

the Ot­toman killings of Ar­me­ni­ans.

‘Risk of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion’

Ar­me­nia and Ar­me­ni­ans in the di­as­pora say 1.5 mil­lion of their fore­fa­thers were killed by Ot­toman forces in a tar­geted cam­paign or­dered by the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship of the Ot­toman em­pire to erad­i­cate the Ar­me­nian peo­ple from Ana­to­lia in what is now eastern Turkey, an ar­gu­ment backed by sev­eral Euro­pean par­lia­ments.

Turkey takes a sharply dif­fer­ent view of the tragedy, say­ing that hun­dreds of thou­sands of both Turks and Ar­me­ni­ans lost their lives as Ot­toman forces bat­tled the Rus­sian Em­pire for con­trol of eastern Ana­to­lia dur­ing World War I.

While Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and the Is­lamic-rooted rul­ing party has been cred­ited with as­sist­ing Turkey’s re­li­gious mi­nori­ties, they have shown no sign of budg­ing in the geno­cide con­tro­versy.

Er­do­gan of­fered an ex­pres­sion of con­do­lences to Ar­me­ni­ans in 2014 but this has not been fol­lowed by any fur­ther steps, with rhetoric sharp­en­ing even fur­ther.

“It is un­likely that Turkey will change its po­si­tion af­ter Pope Fran­cis’ state­ment,” said Marc Pierini, vis­it­ing scholar at Carnegie Europe, point­ing to June 7 leg­isla­tive elec­tions where na­tion­al­ist votes will be cru­cial.

He said an “en­trenched po­si­tion” by Turkey on the is­sue “clearly en­tails the risk of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the cli­mate be­tween Turkey and West­ern coun­tries” ahead of the April 24 an­niver­sary.

For many Turks, it is in­con­ceiv­able to con­sider that Ot­toman forces were re­spon­si­ble for the gravest of all crimes, at a time when they were com­manded by fig­ures cred­ited with lay­ing the foun­da­tions for the cre­ation of mod­ern Turkey in 1923.

They pre­fer to con­cen­trate on the an­niver­sary of the Battle of Gal­lipoli, where Ot­toman forces re­sisted attack by the Al­lied Pow­ers, a for­ma­tive mo­ment for Turkey whose an­niver­sary falls on al­most ex­actly the same day as the start of cam­paigns against Ar­me­ni­ans.

Not Ashamed

“There is no pe­riod of time in Turkey’s his­tory that it would be ashamed of,” said Europe Af­fairs Min­is­ter Volkan Bozkir, de­scrib­ing the pope’s state­ments as “null and void.”

The 100th an­niver­sary of the start of the tragedy — which Ar­me­ni­ans trace back to the ar­rest of the lead­ers of the Ar­me­nian com­mu­nity in Istanbul on April 24, 1915 — has been a mat­ter of ma­jor con­cern for Turkey with the gov­ern­ment seek­ing to en­gage in of­fen­sive diplo­macy.

Ar­me­ni­ans have ex­pressed out­rage that Turkey is hold­ing its main cer­e­monies for the an­niver­sary of Gal­lipoli on April 24 and not the usual date of April 25, leav­ing world lead­ers with a dilemma over whose event to at­tend.

Turkey’s worst night­mare would be U.S. recog­ni­tion of the killings as geno­cide and on March 18, 44 U.S. law­mak­ers in­tro­duced a res­o­lu­tion press­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to ac­knowl­edge that in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.