Turkey's PM meets Armenian community leader

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met representatives of the Armenian and Assyrian community in Turkey.

Turkey's PM meets Armenian community leader

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met representatives of the Armenian and Assyrian community on Friday, Anadolu news agency said.

The leader of Armenian community in Turkey described the incidents of 1915 as "mutual affliction of close friends who were made hostile to each other," saying, "there was no need to rake up the past.

Following his meeting with Erdogan in Ankara, Bedros Sirinoglu said, " my grandfather died during the incidents of 1915. But there is no need to rake up the past and call it a genocide."

Turkish State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc was also present at the meeting.

The meeting came three weeks after a voting at the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee that adopted a resolution on Armenian allegations despite opposition from the Obama Administration and a similar voting of Swedish Parliament on March 11. They prompted Turkey to recall its ambassadors to United States and Sweden.

"Incidents of 1915 sowed discord between two close friends who loved each other," Sirinoglu said.

"It was a row of a hundred years ago and it created mistrust. We have to forget it and look forward," he said.

Turkey strongly rejects genocide allegations and regards the events as civil strife in wartime which claimed lives of many Turks and Armenians.

When asked about the Armenian population before 1915 and today, Sirinoglu said that the population was 1.5 million at that time.

However, he said a significant part of Armenians migrated to several countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq and France and added that both Turkish and Armenian peoples suffered from what happened a hundred years ago.

"If we dredge up (the incidents of 1915), we will have to stay in dark," he said.

"It has been a hundred years. No need to hold a grudge. Such things have happened in the world such as wars. But they have all been covered up. But I do not know why, these incidents between Turkish people and Armenians living in Ottoman state are still not covered."

Sirinoglu also said that Armenian people were living safely in Turkey.

Asked if he was hopeful about the protocols signed by Turkey and Armenian in October 2009 to normalize relations, Sirinoglu said, "I am hopeful because I believe Turkey and Armenia would learn lessons from the past."

Sirinoglu also said he apologized to Erdogan for misguiding him about the number of Armenian citizens living in Turkey.

Earlier this month, Erdogan said 100,000 out of 170,000 Armenians living in Turkey were not Turkish citizens. He said Turkey could deport these people living in Turkey illegally.

"There are 20,000 Armenian citizens living in Turkey, not 100,000," Sirinoglu said. "Mr. Prime Minister gave credence to our words and said it was 100,000. I would like to thank him for trusting us. But I would also like to apologize for misguiding him."

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Mart 2010, 16:59

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