ANKARA (A.W.)—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Armenia of “fixing” the date of the Armenian Genocide commemorations this year to coincide with the Gallipoli ceremonies Turkey is hosting on April 24. Erdogan made his comments during an interview conducted by France24’s Marc Perelman on March 27.
“It’s the 100th anniversary of the land battles of Gallipoli, and it has nothing to do with the ceremonies to be held by Armenia. It has absolutely nothing to do with them,” said Erdogan, adding, “Quite the contrary: They fixed their ceremonies to coincide with our date. We have no such consideration. We have no such worry to coincide it with that event on the 24th of April.”
Perelman had interviewed Armenian President Serge Sarkisian on March 23, during which the latter called Turkey’s commemoration of the Gallipoli battles on April 24 a “cynical act.”
“Unfortunately, once again we find ourselves facing a negationist approach and I’m sorry to use this expression, but it is a particularly cynical act. The Battle of Gallipoli did not start on April 24 , nor did it end on April 24. It’s self-evident. This is a way of injuring, of wounding the Armenian people and at the same time, it is intended to set obstacles on the path to Centennial commemorations [of the Armenian Genocide],” Sarkisian told Perelman.
Erdogan has sent official invitations to more than 100 world leaders, including Sarkisian, to take part in the Gallipoli ceremonies. The date designated for these commemoration events—April 24—created uproar among Armenians worldwide, while Turkish human rights groups urged world leaders to boycott the Gallipoli events.
On Jan. 16, Sarkisian responded to Erdogan’s invitation to Turkey in a strongly worded letter. “Turkey continues its conventional denial policy and is perfecting its instrumentation for distorting history. This time, Turkey is marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli on April 24, even though the battle began on March 18, 1915 and lasted until late January 1916, while the Allies’ operation started on April 25,” he wrote, adding, “What is the purpose [of this] if not to distract the world’s attention from the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide?”
Below is the relevant transcript from the interview:
Perelman: There is a controversy with Armenia over the commemoration of the 1915 events. The president of Armenia is accusing you of sabotaging the commemoration of the events by hosting a commemoration in Turkey on the same day—on April 24. He’s saying that you’re cynically sabotaging the Armenian memory. What’s your response?
Erdogan: Well, until today, when it comes to the problems between Turkey and Armenia, we have always been the ones to take positive steps. Armenia has never taken any positive steps. We have always extended our hand in peace, but our hand was never met by theirs. Last year, on the 23rd of April, I published a letter—I don’t know if you are aware of that—this letter received quite positive feedback. But, I did not get the same positive feedback from Armenia.
This year, we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli land battles. We are in no position to obtain permission from Armenia to do so. It’s a date in history. It’s set in history. It’s the 100th anniversary of the land battles of Gallipoli, and it has nothing to do with the ceremonies to be held by Armenia. It has absolutely nothing to do with them.
Quite the contrary: They fixed their ceremonies to coincide with our date. We have no such consideration. We have no such worry to coincide it with that event on the 24th of April.
We will hopefully contribute to world peace. On the 18th of March our prime minister attended an event, and on the 24th of April, I will be the host of these ceremonies. The 23rd of April will be a peace summit, and we will be sending out some messages. The Canakkale events will be on the 24th, and again, we will send out messages. On the 25th, our guests will attend a dawn ceremony to send out the same messages.