Turkey’s prime minister on Tuesday rebuffed French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for Ankara to recognise the World War I-era killing of Armenians as genocide, urging “honesty” in politics.
Speaking in Turkish parliament, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised Sarkozy for using different languages when he spoke in Turkey, France and Armenia.
“This is not political leadership. Politics, first of all, requires honesty,” said Erdogan.
Sarkozy crossed swords with Turkey during a visit to the Armenian capital Yerevan last week when he urged Ankara to recognise, within a “very brief” period, the 1915 massacres at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
“From 1915 to 2011, it seems to be enough (time) for reflection,” said Sarkozy in remarks which drew ire from Turkish officials.
Erdogan accused the French leader of making “election investment,” linked to French presidential elections next year.
“There are 600,000 Armenians in your country but also 500,000 Turks. You have relations with Turkey,” said Erdogan, addressing Sarkozy.
“Bearing the title of statesman requires thinking about next generations, not next elections,” said Erdogan.
Sarkozy had already angered Turkey ahead of his election in 2007 by backing a law aimed at prosecuting those who denied genocide, although the French lower house of parliament later rejected the measure.
Armenians say that up to 1.5 million of their kin fell victim to genocide during World War I under the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey counters that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian forces.