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Turkey PM calls for 'new beginning' with Armenians

21 january 2015, 10:01
0
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. ©AFP
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. ©AFP

 Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday called for a "new beginning" in relations between Turkey and Armenians scarred by a bitter historical dispute over mass killings during World War I, AFP reports.

"We call on all Armenians, and invite all those who believe in Turkish-Armenian friendship to contribute to a new beginning," Davutoglu said in a statement marking the eighth anniversary of the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who campaigned for reconciliation between the two neighbours.

Armenians accuse Ottoman forces of carrying out a genocide against their forebears during World War I that left an estimated 1.5 million people dead.

But modern Turkey has always vehemently resisted terming the mass killings as genocide, saying there were heavy casualties on both sides as Ottoman forces battled Russian troops for control of eastern Anatolia in 1915.

Last year President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then premier, offered an unprecedented expression of condolence for the massacres of Armenians.

But this month Erdogan said he would "actively" challenge a campaign to pressure Turkey to recognise genocide during the 100th anniversary year.

"Only by breaking taboos can we hope to begin addressing the great trauma that froze time in 1915," said Davutoglu.

Dink, 52, was shot dead in broad daylight outside the offices of his bilingual newspaper in Istanbul in January 2007 in a killing that shocked both countries.

Despite the cautious overtures of the Turkish government, many Armenians remain deeply suspicious of Ankara's intentions during the centenary year of the 1915 tragedy.

Armenian commentators have angrily accused Turkey of trying to eclipse its commemorations of the tragedy by apparently moving forward by one day Turkish ceremonies to mark the 1915 Gallipoli landings in World War I.

The resistance by Ottoman forces at the battle is seen as their greatest hour in World War I and a key moment in the foundation of the nation state.

Although the anniversary is usually marked on April 25, the Gallipoli ceremony has been brought forward to April 24, exactly the same day as major commemorative events are planned in Yerevan.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has not accepted an invitation from Erdogan to attend the Gallipoli ceremonies, accusing him of trying to "divert world attention from the activities marking centennial of the Armenian genocide."


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