ANKARA, Turkey, April 23 (UPI) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan unexpectedly offered condolences, but not an apology, to the families of a million Armenians killed in a World War I massacre.
The mass killings have long been a source of contention. Armenia has demanded Turkey acknowledge the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide; Turkey puts the figure closer to 500,000 and claims they died of fighting and starvation, and rejects defining the issue as genocide.
Erdogan’s comments, on the eve of the 99th anniversary of the start of mass deportation of Armenians from Turkey, referred to the incidents as “our shared pain…having experienced events which had inhumane consequences, such as relocation, during the first world war should not prevent Turks and Armenians from establishing compassion and mutually humane attitudes.” The statement, translated into nine languages, including, for the first time, Armenian, attempted to strike a conciliatory tone.
His words were dismissed by the Armenian National Committee of America, whose executive director, Aram Hamparian, commented, “Ankara is repackaging its genocide denials. Turkey is, today, escalating its denial of truth and obstruction of justice for the Armenian genocide.”