Turkish minister rebuffs Sarkozy over Armenia 'genocide'

7th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's call for Turkey to recognise the World War I-era massacres of Armenians as genocide was rejected Friday by Ankara's European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis.

Sarkozy would do better to concern himself with getting France out of its economic crisis than to play historian over the Armenian question, Bagis said during a visit to Sarajevo, the Anatolia agency reported.

"It would be better... if Monsieur Sarkozy abandons the role of historian and puts his mind to getting his country out of the economic gulf in which it finds itself and comes up with plans for the future of the European Union," he said.

"Our mission, as politicians, is not to define the past or past events. It is to define the future," he added.

He accused Sarkozy of exploiting the Armenia question for electoral reasons in the run-up to next year's presidential election, he said.

Earlier Friday, Sarkozy urged Turkey to recognise the 1915 massacres of Armenians under Turkish Ottoman rule as genocide within a "very brief" period before his presidential term ends in May 2012.

"From 1915 to 2011, it seems to be enough (time) for reflection," Sarkozy told reporters in Yerevan on the second day of his visit to Armenia.

On Thursday, he had called on Turkey to "revisit its history" calling its refusal to recognise the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians as genocide as "unacceptable".

Sarkozy already angered Turkey ahead of his election in 2007 by backing a law aimed at prosecuting those who denied genocide, although the French lower house of parliament later rejected the measure.

The Armenian diaspora in France is estimated at around 500,000 people.

Armenians say that up to 1.5 million of their kin fell victim to genocide during World War I under the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey counters that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian forces.

© 2011 AFP

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