ANKARA–Quoting sources close to the Turkish government, the Daily Sabah on Sunday reported that the presidency and the prime ministry have refuted earlier reports, published by Sunday’s Zaman, about the cancellation of events set to mark the Gallipoli centennial on April 24, the Turkish president’s scheme to deflect international attention from the centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
“Sources from both the Presidency and Prime Ministry have refuted the claims that the commemorations have been canceled, refraining from offering further details over how many and which countries will participate in the Gallipoli centennial commemoration,” reported Sabah, which emphasized Today Zaman’s link to the Gulen Movement, once an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now facing a crackdown in Turkey. The Turkish government has issued an arrest warrant for the group’s leader, Fettulah Gulen, a cleric living in Pennsylvania, and asked the US to extradite him back to Turkey.
On February 21, the Sunday’s Zaman quoted a government official, who wished to remain anonymous, as saying, “The Gallipoli celebrations have been canceled. All preparations have been suspended as the number of RSVPs to the invitation is not positive. Only five countries have accepted the invitation and they will not be represented by high-level officials.”
Leading up to the Gallipoli event, Erdogan had sent official invitations to more than 100 world leaders, including Armenian President Serge Sarkisian, to partake in the ceremonies. The date designated for these commemoration events—April 24—created uproar among Armenians worldwide, while Turkish human rights groups urged world leaders to boycott the Gallipoli events.
On Jan. 16, Sarkisian responded to Erdogan’s invitation to Turkey on April 24, in a strongly worded letter. “Turkey continues its conventional denial policy and is perfecting its instrumentation for distorting history. This time, Turkey is marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli on April 24, even though the battle began on March 18, 1915 and lasted until late January 1916, while the Allies’ operation started on April 25,” he wrote, adding, “What is the purpose [of this] if not to distract the world’s attention from the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide?”