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Turkey quick to react to genocide reference

VATICAN (SE): Although diplomatic in timing, Ankara was on the war path early on the day after Pope Francis returned to the Vatican from his visit to Armenia, saying that Turkey is disappointed with the language he used when describing the massacre of over one million people in Armenia.

Speaking of the deaths of one to 1.5 million people when the Ottoman Empire was expanding its wings across 12 provinces of the country in 1915, Pope Francis used the controversial word genocide on June 24 when speaking in the Armenian capital of Yerevan.

He called it the first genocide of the 20th century.

After a similar incident in April last year, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to the Vatican. Although it kept a respectful silence until the pope was safely tucked back in his home, its reaction was clear and pointed.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on June 27 that it is disappointed, describing the pope’s interpretation of history as “partial towards historical events” and religiously discriminating in its presentation.

The statement says, “We regrettably note that Pope Francis’ trip to Armenia did not make any contribution to peace and stability in the Southern Caucasus, especially in this critical period which has been demonstrated also by the clashes last April along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and at some sections of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border.”

It adds, “It is expected from those who occupy a sanctimonious position, such as the pontificate, to leave a legacy of amity and peace, as well as to take a conciliatory attitude, respectful of law.”

ANSA reported on June 27 that the deputy prime minister of Turkey, Nurettin Canikli, accused the pope of having a crusade mentality, adding that he also lacks the adequate information to make a prudent assessment on the true identity of many of the victims who died in 1915.

The Hurriyet cited what it described as reliable Turkish diplomatic sources as saying that the Foreign Ministry would summon the Vatican nuncio in Ankara to express its malaise over Pope Francis’ recognition of the 1915 Armenian massacre as genocide.

Addressing the president of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, religious leaders, diplomats and members of civil society, the pope said the 1915 slaughter of an estimated one to 1.5 million people was “a tragedy, a genocide.”

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