Only a week after expressing condolences for the 1915 deportation and killings of Armenians, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the small Armenian community still living in Turkey was proof that there was no genocide in the past.
Speaking in an interview with Charlie Rose from PBS, Erdoğan said what happened in 1915 could not be described as a genocide.
“This is not possible. Because if there were a genocide, [there would not be] Armenians still living in Turkey,” Erdoğan said, reiterating that Ankara was ready to open its historical archives.
“We see genocide as a crime against humanity. We will never shut our eyes to it. We are ready to open our archives. Armenia and other third party countries should do it too,” he said, adding if documents prove it, then Turkey would apologize.
“These events did not happen under the Turkish Republic, but the Ottoman Empire. If the documents show it, then we will not avoid apologizing and accepting the consequences,” he said.
In an unexpected statement issued April 23, Erdoğan had stressed the common pain endured by the two peoples, expressing condolences for the descendants of the mass killings in 1915.
“The incidents of World War I are our shared pain. To evaluate this painful period of history through a perspective of just memory is a humane and scholarly responsibility,” his statement said.
The remarks had a widely positive response, with Washington describing them as “historic” and many commentators noting that they constituted a major step for confronting the past.