Turkish President Erdogan has issued an angry warning to Germany, saying that if they dare to recognise the Armenian genocide, Turkey will cut off diplomatic ties with the country.
Following the Berlin vote to officially recognise the mass-killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces in the First World War as an “act of genocide,” Erdogan hit back by delivering a furious televised speech in Turkey.
Turkey would never accept the charge that Ottoman troops were guilty of “genocide”, he said.
He hit a raw nerve by highlighting Germany’s own genocide of 6 million Jews during the Second World War, saying the European powerhouse was the “last country” to make accusations of genocide.
He also added that the slaughter of indigenous Namibians under the German Empire – which Berlin has yet to officially term as a genocide – should instead be examined by Berlin lawmakers.
Accusations of an Armenian Genocide were an act of “blackmail” against Turkey, he added, which won’t do much to repair already badly damaged ties between Berlin and Ankara.
Due to frequent European criticism of the premier, Erdogan threatened to leave Europe “to its own worries” if accusations of genocide were to continue.
“The issue here is not the Armenians…. The Armenian issue is used all over the world as a convenient blackmail against Turkey and has even started to be used as a stick,” he said.
“I am addressing the whole world. You may like it, you may not. Our attitude on the Armenian issue is clear from the beginning. We will never accept the accusations of genocide.”
Like many Turkish nationalists, Erdogan believes the Ottoman Empire was “under siege from all sides” between 1915 and 1917 – when the killings took place – and it is hard to judge what happened during the hazy days of world war.
Although some accuse Armenians of also being guilty of killing Turks, the president went a step further during Saturday’s speech:
“Of course, a number of measures were taken to restore order in Anatolia”.
Relations between Brussels – and Germany in particular – and Turkey have reached a low ebb in recent months.
Germany appears to be resolute in blocking Ankara’s continued attempts to join the European Union. Meanwhile Turkey has used its hosting of at least a million Syrian refugees as a potential weapon against Europe, which is coping with its worst refugee crisis in decades.
Erdogan himself has come under attack by European ministers for acting like a “dictator” and muzzling the press.
On Saturday, he returned fire accusing the EU of “hypocrisy” and using “your propaganda machines, Armenians or terror groups” against Turkey.
“Don’t deliver blows below the belt in the media or the economy,” he added.
Erdogan also made a personal attack on Chancellor Angela Merkel for staying away from the Armenian genocide vote, saying she should have “cast her vote”.
“Now I wonder how, after such a decision, German officials will at look me personally and our prime minister in the face,” Erdogan said.
“[The German parliament] sign[ed] up to a lie… If we open the old books then it’s clear that the one to be held least to account is Turkey.”
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