Accusing Turkey of committing genocide is a form of execution without trial, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has indicated, while also stating that Ankara is “ready to pay for any misdeed” if an “impartial board of historians” concludes that it was at fault for the events of 1915.
“We are not obliged to accept that the so-called Armenian genocide was ‘made-to-order,’” Erdoğan said late on Jan. 29, speaking during a live interview on public broadcaster TRT Haber.
He mentioned that during his period as prime minister, he had sent a letter in 2005 to former Armenian President Robert Kocharian, proposing that historians investigate the 1915 killings of Anatolian Armenians during the Ottoman era.
“We are saying, ‘If you are sincere on this matter, then come, let’s leave this to historians, let historians study the issue, let’s open our archives,’” Erdoğan said
“We have opened our archive. We have revealed more than one million documents on this. If Armenia also has an archive, then they should open it too. If third countries have archives, they should do the same. Let them study and then let them present their reports to us. Then let’s sit around the table as politicians,” he added, referring to his proposal for the establishment of a joint commission of historians and experts from both Turkey and Armenia to study the events of 1915 together.
“If the results reveal that we have committed a crime, if we have a price to pay, then as Turkey we would assess it and take the required steps,” Erdoğan said.
“But let’s be careful here. The 1915 events are out in the open as history. The State of the Republic of Turkey is out in the open. Our archives have been opened and are out in the open, but the archives on the opposite side are not open. They are just saying ‘Turkey is guilty,’ but Turkey is not guilty just by saying so,” he added.
Armenia says up to 1.5 million people were killed by Ottoman forces during World War I, in what it calls an act of genocide. But modern Turkey has always rejected the term genocide, putting the toll at 500,000 and blaming the deaths on starvation and unrest in the broader context of the war.
Earlier this month, Erdoğan said he would “actively” challenge a campaign to pressure Turkey to recognize the massacres as genocide, though a year ago he offered an unprecedented expression of condolences for the 1915-1916 killings.