27 June 2016
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli has responded to the Pope’s description of the “mass killing of Armenians” during the first world war as genocide.
In his response, Nurettin said the comment shows “the mentality of the Crusades”. He said that the pontiff’s remarks have “no relation to reality” and were “unfortunate”.
Pope Francis made the comments on Friday during his visit to the Armenian capital, Yerevan.
He said: “This tragedy, this genocide, has unfortunately marked the start of a sad series of great catastrophes of the last century”.
Turkey has never regarded the mass killing of Armenians as genocide, instead they insist that the deaths were part of a civil conflict triggered by WW1. They also often dispute the number of people who died in the conflict.
But Armenia and many historians say up to 1.5 million Armenian Christians were killed by Ottoman Turkish forces in 1915 while Turkey insists the toll of death was not as much and that Turks died in the conflict too.
“It is possible to see all the hallmarks or reflections of the mentality of the Crusades in the Pope’s activities,” Nurettin said, quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency, referring to military campaigns in Medieval times promoted by the papacy against Muslims in the Middle East.
Before Friday’s comment, Pope Francis had used the phrase last year, prompting Turkey to recall its envoy to the Vatican for 10 months.
The Pope’s reference to the historic incidence as genocide is not exclusive to him. Most non-Turkish scholars of the events also refer to it as genocide.
Other states such as Argentina, Belgium and Canada also formally recognise the incidence as genocide.