A Turkish cabinet minister has suggested that Pope Francis’ Sunday statement on what he called the “Armenian genocide” may have been because the pontiff is from Argentina which “welcomed Nazis, who were the lead performers of the Jewish Holocaust.”
Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkir also went on to say that the Armenian diaspora was “dominant” in the South American country’s press and business sectors.
Bozkir’s remarks came during a visit to Istanbul’s Bayrampasa district on Monday, where he spoke to journalists.
The minister said the pontiff’s statement was “unacceptable” and “controversial” and was not based on any historical document.
During Sunday’s Mass at the St. Peter’s Basilica, which Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan also attended, Pope Francis said: “In the past century, our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies.
“The first, which is widely considered the first genocide of the 20th century, struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks and, more recently, there have been other mass killings, like those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia.”
Bozkir said Argentina, the current Pope’s homeland, had “welcomed Nazis, who were the lead performers of the Jewish Holocaust.”
“Instead of his supra-identity position, I think Pope Francis made this statement because he is an Argentine. Unfortunately, in Argentina, the Armenian diaspora is dominant in the press and business world,” Bozkir added.
The 1915 events took place during World War I when a portion of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire sided with the invading Russians and revolted against the empire.
The Ottoman Empire relocated Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts and there were Armenian casualties during the relocation process.
Armenia has demanded an apology and compensation, while Turkey has officially refuted Armenian allegations over the incidents saying that, although Armenians died during the relocations, many Turks also lost their lives in attacks carried out by Armenian gangs in Anatolia.
The Turkish government has repeatedly called on historians to study Ottoman archives pertaining to the era to uncover what actually happened between the Ottoman government and its Armenian citizens.
The debate on “genocide” and the differing opinions between the present-day Turkish government and the Armenian diaspora, along with the current administration in Yerevan, still generates political tension between Turks and Armenians.
Turkey’s official position against allegations of “genocide” is that it acknowledges the past experiences were a great tragedy and that both parties suffered heavy casualties, including hundreds of Muslim Turks.
Ankara agrees that there were certainly Armenian casualties during World War I, but says that it is impossible to define these incidents as “genocide.”
In 2014, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his condolences for the first time to all Ottoman citizens who lost their lives in the events of 1915.
“May Armenians who lost their lives in the events in the early twentieth century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren,” Erdogan had said.