It is 'discrimination' to call massacres of Armenians 'genocide', Turkey says
Turkey has used the anniversary of the massacres of more than a million Armenians beginning 100 years ago this week to attack countries calling for the event to be called a genocide.
Turkey’s leaders have been embroiled in increasingly angry exchanges as the anniversary approaches, accusing Europe of “enmity” after the European Parliament voted to use the term for the killings.
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In his formal statement on the anniversary, the prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, was unrepentant and hard-hitting.He repeated Turkey’s insistence that the Armenian losses, though sad, were among many in the First World War, adding that it was a form of “discrimination” to focus on Armenians and not on “Turkish and Muslim Ottomans” who died at the same time.
“It is possible to establish the causes of what happened in World War One and those who were responsible for it,” he said.
“However, laying all blame - through generalisations - on the Turkish nation by reducing everything to one word and to compound this with hate speech is both morally and legally problematic.”
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On Wednesday AFP reported that the Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik's plane was stopped from flying over Turkey's territory to prevent him from attending a ceremony to mark the centenary in Armenia, his cabinet said.
"Although all authorisations for this flight had been initially obtained, Turkish authorities did not allow the flight over their territory," Mr Dodik's cabinet said in a statement.
The plane carrying the president of Republika Srpska, a Serb-run entity of Bosnia, returned to his capital Banja Luka after spending four and a half hours at an airport in eastern Bulgaria, waiting in vain for authorisation to fly over Turkish territory, the statement said.
In a separate development Turkey also recalled its ambassador from Vienna for consultations after the Austrian parliament passed a resolution describing the 1915 killings as genocide.
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Armenians and many historians say more than a million people died when the Turkish authorities ordered the community’s expulsion from their towns and villages across Anatolia.
The attacks began when 235 Armenian intellectuals and leaders were rounded up in Istanbul on April 24 1915.
In the provinces, many of those targeted for expulsion were bayonetted, shot or starved to death as they were herded towards the Syrian deserts.
A million more survived but in terrible conditions.
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The Turkish authorities have always insisted that there was no deliberate policy of extermination, though it accepts that many Armenians were killed as a result of what Mr Davutoglu called the “relocation”.
However, there are still few memorials to the missing, evidence of whose thousands of years of civilisation in the east of the country has been largely expunged.
Many churches have fallen down, or are being used as farm buildings. Some have been restored as mosques, with no reference to what happened to those who used to worship there.