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France can't lecture us on genocide, history - Turkish FM

  • 12 Apr 2019

Ankara harshly condemns French and Italian involvement in the disputed 1915 events between Turkey and Armenia, describing them as "abuse of history and the law" and saying its European allies are taking decisions for political reasons.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gestures during a press conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, April 11, 2019. ( AP )

Turkey on Friday condemned separate decisions by France and Italy to officially recognise the events of 1915 involving Armenians within the Ottoman Empire as a genocide.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that France was the last country which could lecture Turkey on genocide and history.

"France should mind its own dark history in Rwanda and Algeria," Cavusoglu said at a NATO meeting in the Mediterranean province of Antalya.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday signed a decision that set April 24 as a day of annual commemoration. Macron had announced the decision in February, following through with a 2017 campaign promise.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Macron had used this promise to win Armenian votes during elections. 

"It is inevitable that France's attitude, which is far from amicable, will impact its relations with Turkey in a negative way," the statement said.

Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.

On Wednesday, Italy's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, also approved a motion to officially recognise the events as genocide.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry condemned that step too, calling it an example of using Armenian claims for domestic political interests.

"It is not surprising that this motion was drafted by the Lega Party, led by Matteo Salvini, who is committed to sabotaging relations between Turkey and Italy," the statement said.

The 1915 events

The relations between Turkey and Armenia are broken due to the tragic events of 1915. Many Armenians died during the war, as well as Turkish people. Armenians describe the events as so-called "genocide" while Turkey says both Turks and Armenians were killed.

In 2005, then Turkish prime minister now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially delivered his proposal to Armenia's then-President Robert Kocharian by sending a letter to establish a  joint commission to examine the developments and the events of 1915. 

President Erdogan also called for other countries to contribute to the process if they have information on the case. Armenian side has not accepted Erdogan's call.

Since then, Turkey has repeatedly proposed Armenia to establish a joint historical commission to shed light on historical realities.

However, call for the other counties to contribute to find out what had happened during those years was not answered the way Ankara desired, Ankara has requested historical facts and proof by historians.

Relations between Turkey and Armenia

Armenia and Turkey had signed a landmark protocol in October 2009 in Zurich under Switzerland mediation to restore ties and open their shared border.

The protocols needed parliamentary approval in both countries, but was never ratified.

Ankara previously said Ankara submitted the protocols to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey for approval. 

Ankara added that in order to show Turkey's commitment to establishing good neighbourly relations with Armenia, it introduced numerous unilateral confidence-building measures to help restore confidence between Turkey and Armenia without giving details.

However, a similarly constructive approach was not seen from the Armenian side, it said.

The Armenian Constitutional Court declared on January 12, 2010 that the protocols were in line with the Armenian Constitution, but on January 18, 2010, its court justification contained preliminary and restrictive provisions contrary to the letter and spirit of the protocols.

Armenia suspended its ratification following Turkish demands that it first reach terms over the breakaway Azerbaijani territory, Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Nagorno-Karabakh was occupied by Armenian secessionists as the Soviet Union broke up in the late 1980s.

In March 2018, Armenia scrapped an agreement it signed with Turkey in 2009, claiming it turned out to be a failed attempt to normalise relations between the two countries.

Then Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan said Armenia did everything "not to leave the burden of the settlement of relations between Armenia and Turkey on the shoulders of future generations."

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