President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Saturday that Turkey would never accept charges the Ottoman Empire committed genocide against Armenians in World War I, saying the accusations were being used as “blackmail” against Ankara.
In his most bitter reaction yet to the vote by the German parliament Thursday to recognise the killings from 1915 as genocide, Erdogan threatened to leave Europe “to its own worries” if such disputes were not resolved.
“The issue here is not the Armenians…. The Armenian issue is used all over the world as a convenient blackmail against Turkey and has even started to be used as a stick,” he said in a televised speech.
“I am addressing the whole world. You may like it, you may not. Our attitude on the Armenian issue is clear from the beginning. We will never accept the accusations of genocide.”
He said that during World War I, what remained of the Ottoman Empire was “under siege from all sides” and “of course a number of measures were taken to restore order in Anatolia”.
The vote in the German parliament added yet another bone of contention to Turkey’s troubled relationship with the European Union, which it has sought to join since 1987.
“Either we find solutions to our problems in a fair way. Or Turkey will stop being a barrier in front of the problems of Europe. We will leave you to your own worries,” Erdogan added to cheers, without specifying further.
Armenians say some 1.5 million of their people were killed in a genocidal campaign by Ottoman forces — ordered by Minister of War Enver Pasha and other top officials — to wipe them from Anatolia.
But Turkey insists similar numbers of Muslims and Armenians were killed during wartime conflict sparked when Armenians joined forces with invading Russian troops in the hope of carving out their own state.