ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has strongly criticized the pope for describing the 1915 mass killing of Armenians as genocide. Ankara also has recalled its ambassador from the Vatican.
Davutoglu condemned Pope Francis for his comments Sunday in which he described the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by Turkey’s then-Ottoman rulers as genocide. Davutoglu called those comments one-sided.
He said to read these sorrows in a one-sided way is inappropriate for the pope and the authority that he holds.
Ankara argues that the number of Armenians claimed to be killed is exaggerated, and that those who died did so during a civil war. The pope made his comments during a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the killings, with Armenian spiritual leaders in attendance. The Turkish prime minister accused the pope of prejudice.
He said we would expect the religious leaders to call for peace. Opening archives for those whose hearts are sealed serves no purpose.
The Turkish leader went on to warn that the pontiff’s comments could lead to greater Islamaphobia against Muslims living in Europe. He also accused the pope of contradicting the message he gave during his visit to Turkey in November.
Ankara also showed its displeasure by summoning the Vatican representative to the Turkish foreign ministry and then followed this up by withdrawing its ambassador from the Vatican for consultations.
Observers say the prime minister’s tough response may be colored by the fact that he is in the midst of a general election and that nationalist voters make up a core constituency of his party’s voting base.
With the 100th anniversary of the mass killings, Ankara also is engaged in a diplomatic struggle to thwart attempts by Yerevan and the Armenian Diaspora to gain greater recognition of its genocide claims. Analysts say the pope’s comments are likely to be a boost to those efforts.
More than 20 countries recognize the Armenian genocide.