ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey on Wednesday hit out at President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement that France would make April 24 a “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide.”
“We condemn and reject attempts by Macron, who is afflicted by political problems in his own country, to try and save the day by turning historical events into a political matter,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement after the French leader’s announcement on Tuesday.
Macron said Tuesday: “France is, first and foremost, the country that knows how to look history in the face,” during a speech to the Armenian community at a dinner in Paris.
Turkey and Armenia have long been at odds over the treatment of Armenians during World War I.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people were killed during the war.
But Turkey – the Ottoman Empire’s successor state – denies that the massacres, imprisonment and forced deportation of Armenians from 1915 amounted to a genocide.
“The claims of a so-called Armenian genocide have no legal basis at all, and go against historical realities. It is a political lie,” Kalin said.
“No one can sully our history,” the spokesman added.
The French president said he had previously informed his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his decision.
France was one of the first major European nations to recognize the mass killings as “genocide.” More than 20 other countries have followed suit.
Armenians commemorate the massacres on April 24 — the day in 1915 when thousands of Armenian intellectuals suspected of harboring nationalist sentiment and being hostile to Ottoman rule were rounded up.