Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has slammed Greece for its “baseless and delirious statements,” over claims of genocide during the late Ottoman era.
Athens made a state on Tuesday, the remembrance day of what Greece calls the Pontic genocide, in which it says at least 450,000 Greeks were killed between 1913 and 1922 in what is now Turkey.
Meanwhile also on Tuesday, Turkey commemorated the start of the Turkish War of Independence on May 19, 1919.
“On such a day, the baseless and delirious statements made by the Greek parliament and institutions under the pretext of marking the anniversary of May 19, 1919 does not accord with historical facts or values of the 21st century,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Turkish statement referenced atrocities committed by the Greek army after its occupation of Izmir following the end of the First World War, which it said were serious enough to warrant the Allies establishing an investigative commission and which article 59 of the Treaty of Lausanne – which fixed most of the borders of the modern Turkish Republic – said were against the laws of war.
The Turkish statement went on to say that “it is another proof that irresponsible politicians and radicals are trying to reverse history today”.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement was in response to a statement by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday.
“Α century ago, the Pontian Greeks became the victims of an unprecedented atrocity. They were persecuted, displaced, and exterminated. Those who survived left behind their ancestral homes to rise up again in the motherland,” Mitsotakis said.
“The state unanimously responded to the self-evident duty of recognising the genocide and is still fighting for its internationalisation and worldwide promotion,” he said. “In parallel, Greece has integrated into a new course the strength of its children from Pontus. Of those who keep alive the memory and the traditions of their land. We will honour the Remembrance Day until the Day of Vindication dawns.”
Greece says the killings were part of a larger attack on Christian minorities, including Armenians and Assyrians. Turkey has yet to recognise the killings as genocides and says the deaths took place in a general situation of war that saw casualties on all sides.
On Tuesday, the Christian magazine Persecution said that “Turkey’s continued denial of the Greek genocide has led to a number of hardships for the descendants of the genocide’s survivors. Turkey has never acknowledged or apologised for these exterminations, and the country continues to enforce policies that ostracise Greek Christians within the nation.”
May 19 is also a milestone in Turkish history, marking the day in 1919 when Mustafa Kemal – who later took the surname Atatürk – arrived in the Black Sea city of Samsun to launch the war against foreign occupations for an independent Turkish state that would be declared in 1923.
Atatürk dedicated May 19 as Youth and Sports Day – a national holiday that sees young people stage sporting and cultural activities with official ceremonies organised across the nation.