ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today his nation was ready to “confront” the nation’s history of killing ethnic Armenians nearly a century ago, but stopped short of admitting it was genocide.
In a weekly speech in Parliament addressing his ruling party’s legislators, Erdogan reiterated a call for Armenia and Armenians living abroad to participate in research with Turkey to document precisely what happened.
In the same speech, Erdogan also criticized German President Joachim Gauck, who raised human rights concerns during his visit to Turkey this week.
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey however, denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.
“We are saying, let’s wipe away the tears, push prejudices to one side, and reveal historic truths ... in an objective manner,” Erdogan said.
“I hope that Armenia and the Armenian diaspora recognize our courageous step and reciprocate in the same courageous manner,” he said.
Last week Erdogan issued condolences to descendants of Armenians killed. A prominent American-Armenian group rejected that message, demanding that Turkey admit that genocide happened.
Erdogan also rejected criticism of Turkey’s human rights record by the visiting German president, saying Germany should save comments for its own domestic troubles, such as racist attacks on Turks in Germany.
“We cannot tolerate meddling in our country’s internal affairs,” Erdogan said, the day after Gauck, who is ending a three-day visit, questioned Turkey’s crackdown on freedoms.
Erdogan said Gauck — a former Lutheran priest who opposed the former East Germany’s communist regime — was acting like a pastor instead of a statesman.