Turkey stirs trou­ble with di­ary clash on day mark­ing geno­cide

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY STU­ART WIL­LIAMS

Turkey is host­ing com­mem­o­ra­tions for the 100th an­niver­sary of the Battle of Gal­lipoli a day ear­lier than the ac­tual start of fight­ing, drawing bit­ter ac­cu­sa­tions it is try­ing to over­shadow cer­e­monies re­mem­ber­ing the mas­sacres of Ar­me­ni­ans by Ot­toman forces.

Ar­me­ni­ans are in­censed that Turkey brought for­ward the an­niver­sary date for the key World War I battle by a day to April 24 from April 25, which is when Al­lied forces be­gan their doomed land of­fen­sive for the penin­sula on the Dardanelles Straits. Pres­i­dent Serzh Sark­isian of Ar­me­nia has ac­cused Turkey’s Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan of de­lib­er­ately “try­ing to di­vert world at­ten­tion” from the com­mem­o­ra­tions that are to be held in Yere­van on April 24.

The clash has put states­men across the globe in a tricky po­si­tion of choos­ing which cer­e­mony to at­tend, with lead­ers like Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of Rus­sia keen to avoid of­fend­ing ei­ther side for eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

“The Krem­lin has been com­pelled to bal­ance be­tween Ankara and Yere­van and con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity of the Rus­sian lead­er­ship tak­ing part in two dif­fer­ent me­mo­rial events at ex­actly the same time,” com­mented Rus­sia’s Kom­m­er­sant daily.

‘Po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing’

The loom­ing an­niver­saries are of tremen­dous im­por­tance for the young mod­ern states of Turkey and Ar­me­nia — which were only founded in 1923 and 1991.

For Turkey, the Battle of Gal­lipoli is said to have given birth to a na- tional con­scious­ness and marked a key step in the cre­ation of mod­ern Turkey as the Ot­toman Em­pire crum­bled.

Many of the com­man­ders who fought in the grind­ing al­most 9-month battle — con­sid­ered one of the Al­lies’ most sig­nif­i­cant de­feats — would play a key role in the found­ing of the Turk­ish Repub­lic, in­clud­ing Mustafa Ke­mal Ataturk.

But 1915 has a far darker res­o­nance for Ar­me­ni­ans, who say 1.5 mil­lion of their an­ces­tors were killed in a cam­paign of geno­cide by the Ot­toman se­cu­rity forces aimed at erad­i­cat­ing them from Ana­to­lia, in what is now eastern Turkey.

Turkey’s de­ci­sion to hold the main Gal­lipoli cer­e­monies on April 24 emerged in Jan­uary when Er­do­gan sent in­vi­ta­tion let­ters to 100 world lead­ers, in­clud­ing Sark­isian.

The Ar­me­nian leader spat back that Er­do­gan had not both­ered to re­ply to his in­vi­ta­tion to at­tend the Yere­van cer­e­monies.

“This is yet an­other ex­am­ple of po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing and po­lit­i­cal rhetoric ahead of the 100th an­niver­sary,” said Richard Gi­ragosian, direc­tor of the Yere­van-based Re­gional Stud­ies Cen­ter.

‘Pro­voke and pro­mote over

re­ac­tion’

“This is a stub­born and emo­tional cy­cle where each side tends to pro­voke and pro­mote over-re­ac­tion,” he added.

The con­tro­versy over the dates is adding to ten­sions as Turkey reaf­firms its re­jec­tion that any geno­cide took place with ad­di­tional ve­he­mence af­ter Pope Fran­cis used the word at a me­mo­rial mass for the vic­tims.

AP

Ja­son Warnock, left, pulls Mathew Sitko to safety from an SUV stopped by a chain link fence just short of a 30-foot (9.14-me­ter) ver­ti­cal drop onto Bry­den Canyon Road in Lewis­ton, Idaho on Wed­nes­day, April 15. The 23-year-old driver suf­fered mi­nor in­juries and was taken to a hos­pi­tal, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties. The photo was re­leased by the AP on April 18.

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