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Vatican steps back over 1915 incidents

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Last Sunday, Pope Francis called the 1915 events that affected Armenians “the first genocide of the 20th century,” which led Turkey to recall its ambassador to the Vatican and also summon the Vatican envoy in Ankara.

The Vatican has taken note of Turkey’s reaction to Pope Francis’ statement over the1915 incidents and has no intention of creating a polemic, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Wednesday.

Last Sunday, Pope Francis called the 1915 events that affected Armenians “the first genocide of the 20th century,” which led Turkey to recall its ambassador to the Vatican and also summon the Vatican envoy in Ankara.

“The pope’s speech was very clear. He quoted a declaration signed by Pope John Paul II and Kerekin II (in 2001), and used the word ‘genocide’ in that context,” Lombardi told a press conference Wednesday, adding that there was no need to make further statements about this issue.

“But, we will note any objections from the Turkish side. We have never sought to create a polemic,” he said.

He also said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for a joint history commission was an “interesting and meaningful offer.”

When reporters pointed out that Erdogan’s suggestion was not new, Lombardi said that Turkey’s long denial of genocide was not new either, adding that Turkey was free to protest the pope’s words.

“We would like to prevent any and all polemics,” he stressed.

The 1915 events took place during World War I when a portion of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire sided with the invading Russians and revolted against the empire.

The Ottoman Empire relocated Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts and there were Armenian casualties during the process.

Armenia has demanded an apology and compensation, while Turkey has officially refuted Armenian allegations over the incidents saying that, although Armenians died during the relocations, many Turks also lost their lives in attacks carried out by Armenian gangs in Anatolia.

Resource: TRT, April 16, 2015

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