Erdogan pays respects to Armenian dead from WWI

Turkish president says it is ‘our common objective to heal the wounds of the past and strengthen ties’
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday released a statement marking the 1915 events, expressing his condolences to the grandchildren of Ottoman Armenians, who passed away at that time.

Erdogan’s message was read during a religious ceremony at the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul.

“This year, I once again pay our respects to the Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives under the harsh conditions of the First World War and convey my condolences to their descendants,” the president said.

Turkey dismisses allegations of genocide but acknowledges there were casualties on both sides during the events in World War I.

Erdogan said Turks and Armenians shared a common history and culture “as two ancient nations of this region”.

“It is our common objective for these two peoples, who have shared the grief and happiness of centuries, to heal the wounds of the past and strengthen people-to-people ties,” he said.

Noting the “many steps” taken in this direction in the past 14 years, and the “historic reforms” launched, Erdogan said Turkey was determined to advance efforts and preserve the memory of the Ottoman Armenians and Armenian cultural heritage in the future.

He emphasized that the peace, security and happiness of the Armenian community were “of special importance” to Turkey.

“We have no tolerance for the alienation and exclusion of our Armenian citizens nor for a single Armenian citizen to feel second-class,” he stressed.

Erdogan also expressed his hopes for a “speedy” conclusion of the election of the Armenian patriarch of Turkey.

According to Turkey’s viewpoint, the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 occurred after some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.

Turkey describes the 1915 events as a tragedy for both sides.