STOCKHOLM—Turkey EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis has apparently backing off from comments he made to a female Swedish Parliament member comparing the Assyrian Genocide to “masturbation,” reported Today’s Zaman.
Bagis, who is a notorious Genocide denier, was attending an event organized by several Assyrian organizations in the Swedish capital earlier this year, when he turned to Swedish member of parliament Yilmaz Gerimo and said: “What are you Assyrians looking to gain by using the Seyfo question as masturbation and trumpeted it in the media and the Swedish Parliament?”
According to reporter Dikran Ego, who first reported the incident, Bagis himself broke the uncomfortable silence that ensued, by apologizing to Turkish Ambassador to Sweden Zergun Koruturk, saying that perhaps his remarks were inappropriate to say in the presence of a woman—the Swedish parliament member, Gerimo.
Assyrian groups in Sweden were greatly offended by the remark.
On Monday though, Bagış, who is back is Sweden accompanying Turkish President Abdullah Gul, said he had not meant to hurt anyone and was ready to apologize if he had. Although the statement was short of an apology as he insisted that he did not remember making such a reference, it was still seen as a sign of regret, reported Today’s Zaman.
Assyrian Federation of Sweden (SRF) Chairman Kenan Anter said his organization remained upset over Basıs’s remarks.
“Firstly, he did not apologize; he only said that he was ready to apologize if he had offended someone, implying that we, the seven or eight [Assyrian] representatives who did not walk out of that meeting [in January] out of respect for him and the ambassador, are liars. He could have at least not denied having said so,” Anter said, adding that he was finding it hard to understand why anyone would risk undermining the trust at a time when dialogue between Sweden’s sizeable Assyrian community and Turkey is going well.
Another SRF leader Afram Yakoub told Today’s Zaman that he was aware that the minister did not offer a full apology but noted that it would have been unthinkable for a Turkish minister even a few years ago to even offer “something which sounds like an apology” to a Christian minority.