ANKARA (RFE/RL)–Turkey has condemned Greece’s President Karolos Papoulias for branding Ottoman Turks that had massacred scores of Greeks and Armenians as “barbarians” during his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian’s latest visit to Athens.
“We were butchered by the same barbarian,” Papoulias said after talks with Sarkisian last Tuesday. He also criticized a decades-old arms race with Turkey that has cost Greece billions of euros.
In a statement issued late on Friday, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected the remarks as a “mere distortion of historical facts” that “do not reflect common sense and are not befitting with the esteemed Office from which they emanate.”
The statement warned that the remarks could damage the Greek and Turkish governments’ long-running efforts to improve historically strained relations between the two nations.
“It is therefore a reasonable expectation for authorities to refrain from such statements which would damage this atmosphere,” it said. “We urge those who make such statements to earnestly review our common recent past and examine historical facts without distorting them, while duly analyzing the contractual situation.”
Papoulias likewise publicly slammed Turkey when he received Sarkisian’s predecessor, Robert Kocharian, in Athens in late 2005. “Armenia understands better than anyone the problems in Greek-Turkish relations,” he was reported to say at the time.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has not officially reacted to Sarkisian’s own strong criticism of Turkey that was voiced during his successive visits to Greece and Cyprus.
Speaking in the Cyprus parliament last Monday, Sarkisian accused Ankara of “destroying” widely welcomed efforts to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations and voiced strong opposition to its efforts to take on a leadership role in the region. The Armenian leader also condemned continuing Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus.
The unusually strong verbal attacks reflected Sarkisian’s frustration with Turkey’s refusal to unconditionally ratify Turkish-Armenian normalization agreements signed in late 2009. The Turkish leadership has made that contingent on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan.