Turkey balks at France's Armenian Genocide commemoration day

France's Armenian Genocide commemoration day 'goes against historical realities', says Turkey
2 min read
06 February, 2019
Macron's declaration of a national remembrance day for the Armenian genocide has incensed Turkey, calling the French leader's claims 'a political lie'.
Macron announced April 24 will be a national day for commemorating the Armenian Genocide [Getty]

Turkey has responded fiercely to President Emmanuel Macron's announcement that France would make April 24 a "national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide", accusing the French leader of doing so to deflect from the political issues ongoing in his own country.

"We condemn and reject attempts by Macron, who is afflicted by political problems in his own country, to try and save the day by turning historical events into a political matter," Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement on Wednesday.

"France is, first and foremost, the country that knows how to look history in the face," Macron said on Tuesday during a speech to the Armenian community at a dinner in Paris.

Turkey and Armenia have long been at odds over the treatment of Armenians during World War I. Turkey and Azerbaijan are the only two countries that outright deny the genocide occured.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people were killed during the war. The overwhelming consensus among historians is that the genocide took place, with estimates of the kileld ranging from 800,000 to 1,800,000.

But Turkey - the Ottoman Empire's successor state - denies that the massacres, imprisonment and forced deportation of Armenians from 1915 amounted to a genocide.

"The claims of a so-called Armenian genocide have no legal basis at all, and go against historical realities. It is a political lie," Kalin said.

"No one can sully our history," the spokesman added.

Armenians voiced support for the French move. US-based writer Chris Bohjalian tweeted: "Deeply grateful to Emmanuel Macron and the French: thank you for making April 24 #ArmenianGenocide Commemoration Day in France. Merci. Shnorhakalem. Thank you for remembering the 1.5 who were systematically annihilated."

Human Rights Watch's Middle East Director, Sarah Leah Whitson, also praised Macron's decision.

The French president said he had previously informed his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his decision.

France was one of the first major European nations to recognise the mass killings as "genocide". More than 20 other countries have followed suit, including Canada, Germany and Argentina.

Countries including France, Cyprus, Italy, Greece, Slovakia and Switzerland, have also made denial of the genocide a crime.

Armenians commemorate the massacres on April 24 - the day in 1915 when thousands of Armenian intellectuals suspected of harbouring nationalist sentiment and being hostile to Ottoman rule were rounded up.

The Armenian community in France numbers around half a million, the bigest in Europe and third largest in the world. The community was established by genocide survivors in 1915.

Agencies contributed to this report.