ANKARA—A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian on Saturday for recent comments accusing Ankara of sending an “indecent invitation” to an event commemorating the Battle of Gallipoli, which Turkish authorities have decided to mark on April 24, the day Armenians commemorate the Armenian Genocide and the day they will be marking the centennial of the Armenian Genocide this year, Today’s Zaman reported.
Sarkisian readily dismissed the Turkish invitation to the event, saying instead that Erdogan should respond to his invitation extended a few months ago to join Armenians in commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan on April 24.
On Jan. 29, Sarkisian repeated his criticism of the Turkish initiative, calling it a “cynical and short-sighted invitation.”
“They say that in politics all means will do, but in this particular case Ankara has harmed its own self. Once I received that indecent invitation, I hurried to publicly respond to it so as to prevent any improper comments from international mass media. I think my response and the reaction of Turkish society have proved that it was an injudicious initiative,” Sarkisian was quoted in the Armenian media as saying.
In remarks published by Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu on its website, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin denounced Sarkisian’s comments as “undiplomatic” and “unstatesmanlike.”
“We return the expressions he used to him,” he told the agency.
Kalin accused the Armenian administration of not responding to Turkey’s “good will gestures,” including the invitation to join the Gallipoli commemoration. “It is observed that it is not realistic to expect the Sarkisian administration, which remains stuck in distorted pages of history, to appreciate these sincere steps [for reconciliation],” said Kalin.
On Jan. 29, Sarkisian said a number of countries have already accepted Armenia’s invitation to attend the commemoration in Yerevan.
In an open letter to Erdogan on Jan. 16, Sarkisian declined the Turkish invitation saying it indicates Turkey’s “traditional policy of denialism.”
“Year by year, improving its tools for denying history, this time Turkey marks the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli on April 24 for the first time, while it began on March 18, 1915, and lasted until late January 1916. Furthermore, the Allies’ land campaign took place on April 25, 1915,” said Sarkisian in his letter. “What purpose does it serve if not a simple-minded goal to distract the attention of the international community from the events dedicated to the centennial of the Armenian Genocide? Whereas, before organizing a commemorative event, Turkey has a much more important obligation towards its own people and all of humanity, namely the recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide,” he added.
Yerevan Fires Back
Responding to the remarks by Kalin, Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said Turkish authorities “should change their way of thinking rather than the date of marking the anniversary of Gallipoli,” adding that Ankara’s policy of denial is a continuation of the Genocide.
“It is apparently acceptable to Turkish diplomacy to move the events marking the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli to April 24 without responding to the Armenian President’s invitation to participate in events commemorating the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire and even dare send an invitation to the Armenian President, a step that contradicts all moral principles,” the Deputy Foreign Minister said in comments to Armenpress.
“With such primitive tricks, Ankara is making yet another unsuccessful attempt to cover up its inability to face the past and accept the historic truth, which could pave the way for the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations,” Kocharian said.
The Turkish government to this day refuses to acknowledge that the systematic, state-sponsored murder of 1.5 million Armenians and the exile of Armenians from their historic homelands constitutes a genocide. Instead, the Turkish state claims that it was Armenians who killed Turks and that Armenians were relocated from their homes for their own safety. Writers and public figures in Turkey are arrested regularly for speaking about the Armenian Genocide, which is illegal in Turkey under certain circumstances.