Ankara (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan upped his war of words Saturday with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron for creating a day of remembrance for the 1915 Armenian “genocide”.
Macron decided in February to formally to mark the mass killings and forced deportations of Armenians by troops from the Ottoman Empire — which preceded modern-day Turkey and sided with German and Austro-Hungary in World War I.
France on Wednesday held its first “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide”.
It was the first major European country to recognise the massacres as genocide in 2001 and Macron has said his decision on a commemoration is designed to show Paris “knows how to look history in the face”.
But Erdogan, who has urged “political novice” Macron to “focus on massacres committed by French troops during the colonial era” on Saturday again denounced the idea.
“Delivering a message to 700,000 Armenians who live in France will not save you, Monsieur Macron,” Erdogan told a gathering of his ruling party in Kizilcahamam, north of Ankara.
“Learn first to be honest in politics — if you are not you cannot win,” said Erdogan, adding he had told Macron his views several times face to face.
Turkish officials have indicated France should look first at its own record, notably in Algeria and its role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Rwanda’s current government accuses Paris of being complicit in the atrocities committed by the majority Hutu community on minority Tutsis.
France has always denied the allegations and Macron announced the creation of a panel of historians and researchers earlier in April which will be tasked with investigating France’s role.
Some 30 countries and a number of historians recognise the 1915 massacre of between 1.2 and 1.5 million Armenians as genocide.
Ankara rejects the term, saying World War I brought countless fatalities on both sides against a further backdrop of famine and civil war.
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.
At the Paris commemoration, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe declared France wanted to contribute to having the massacre internationally recognised as a crime against humanity.
He added Paris “will not be impressed by any lies” on the matter nad supported “historical accuracy and reconciliation”.