France on Wednesday observed it first “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide” provoking a furious reaction from Turkey.
April 24, 1915, is considered the start of the World War I-era massacres of ten of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.
France was the first major European country to recognize the massacres as genocide in 2001. Turkey disputes the description, saying the toll has been inflated and considers those killed to be victims of a civil war.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says nations who accuse Turkey of genocide should look at their own “bloody past.” Erdogan has previously accused France of of being responsible for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Rwanda’s government has also accused France of being complicit in the mass killings of minority Tutsi community by majority Hutus.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also strongly criticized a statement issued by the White House on the Armenian killings.
“Today, we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and honor the memory of those who suffered in one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century. Beginning in 1915, one-and-a-half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire,” the White House statement said.
Turkey objected to the Trump administration’s use of the Armenian term, Meds Yeghern, which means “the great calamity.”
“We reject the statement by U.S. President Trump on the 1915 incidents on April 24, 2019,” the Turkish statement said. “Based on the subjective narrative fictionalized by the Armenians, this statement has no value at all. The distortion of history for political objectives is unacceptable.”