President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered condolences on Saturday to the Patriarch Sahak Maşalyan of Turkey’s Armenian community for the Armenian population of Ottoman Empire who lost their lives during the “difficult conditions” of World War I.
“I commemorate with respect the Ottoman Armenians who have lost their lives in the difficult conditions of World War I, and I extend my condolences to their grandchildren,” the president said in a statement.
The president added that the politicization of the issue against Turkey, which needs to be researched by historians, does not benefit anyone.
He emphasized that Turkish and Armenian populations have been living in unity in Anatolia for centuries, adding that Ankara also wants good neighborly relations with Yerevan.
“We are all members of the human family, regardless of our ethnic origins, religious convictions, language and color. We have lived together, peacefully, in these lands for centuries. We find peace in the shadow of our crimson flag with the crescent and star. What keeps us together is neither interests nor calculations. What keeps us together is our genuine commitment to the same country, the same values, and the same great ideals. Being equal, free and honorable citizens of the Republic of Turkey is a source of pride for all of us,” Erdoğan said.
“We cannot allow the culture of peaceful co-existence between Turks and Armenians, which lasted for centuries and set an example to all mankind, to be forgotten. The politicization of debates, which historians ought to engage in, by third parties and their use as a tool of meddling has not served anyone’s interests. It is my belief that building our identity on the pain, which the past inflicted on our souls, alone is highly unfair to future generations,” the president added.
“As Turks and Armenians, we must finally demonstrate that we have reached the kind of maturity to overcome all obstacles together.”
Erdoğan’s statement came shortly before U.S. President Joe Biden described the 1915 events as “genocide,” leading to harsh criticism from Ankara over unfair, biased and populist stance towards a historical event.
Previously on Friday, Maşalyan released a statement condemning the use of the pain of Armenian community for political purposes.
Turkey’s position on the 1915 events is that the death of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties, compounded by massacres committed by militaries and militia groups of both sides. The mass arrests of prominent Ottoman Armenian politicians, intellectuals and other community members suspected of links with separatist groups or of harboring nationalist sentiments and hostility toward the Ottoman rule were rounded up in then-capital Istanbul on April 24, 1915, a date commemorated as the beginning of later atrocities.
Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as “genocide” but describes the 1915 events as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.
Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to tackle the issue.