Turks and Armenians have co-existed for centuries, the president of Turkiye underlined in a message he sent on Sunday to the head of the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul.
In his message addressing the Turkish-Armenian community gathered at the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate to honor the Ottoman Armenians who died in the "harsh conditions" of World War I, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "I, once again, remember with respect the late Ottoman Armenians, and offer my sincere condolences to their relatives."
Reiterating that the final years of the Ottoman Empire, which coincided with the war, were a "very painful period" for millions of Ottoman citizens, he said it was a humanitarian duty to understand and share these common pains without discriminating by religion, ethnicity, or culture.
"It is important for us, who have for centuries shared each other’s joy and sorrow, to heal the wounds of the past and further strengthen social ties," said Erdogan, adding that instead of increasing pain, "we should build the future together by drawing inspiration from our deep-rooted unity which dates back nearly a thousand years."
Referring to the ongoing effort to normalize ties between Turkiye and Armenia, he praised the support of Turkiye's Armenian community for the process.
"I expect you to make a strong contribution to taking advantage of this historic opportunity arisen after so many years in the name of lasting peace and stability in our region," added the Turkish president.
He assured that Turkiye would "make every effort in order for our Armenian citizens, who have left indelible marks on our cultural and social lives throughout our co-existence extending to centuries on these lands, to maintain their lives in peace, trust and security."
Turkish stance on events of 1915
Turkiye's position on the events of 1915 is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Ankara objects to the presentation of these incidents as "genocide," describing them as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.
The country has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkiye and Armenia, as well as international experts, to tackle the issue.
In 2014, Erdogan -- then prime minister, now president -- expressed his condolences to the descendants of Armenians who lost their lives in the events of 1915.
Turkish-Armenian normalization process
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkiye was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia's independence on Sept. 21, 1991.
But, following the 1993 occupation by Armenian forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, the border between the two countries was closed and remains so to this day. Another contentious issue between the countries is the events of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire.
On Oct. 10, 2009, Turkiye and Armenia signed a peace accord, known as the Zurich Protocols, to establish diplomatic relations and open the border, but failed to ratify the agreement in their respective national parliaments.
Relations between Ankara and Yerevan entered a new phase in the fall of 2020 with the end of the second Nagorno-Karabakh war, which lasted 44 days in which Turkiye helped Azerbaijan recapture its territory.
The two countries have since appointed special representatives, Serdar Kilic and Ruben Rubinyan, who first met on Jan. 14 in Moscow. Their second meeting was held in Vienna on Feb. 24, after which both sides "reiterated their agreement to continue the process without preconditions."