Turkey has strongly condemned French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to mark April 24 as a day of “commemoration of the Armenian genocide” in reference to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire a century ago.
Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın on Wednesday denounced Macron’s move as an attempt to “save the day” and make political gains as he faces “political problems in his own country.”
Many historians regard the mass killings of Armenians as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey rejects the term genocide, contending that those who died were victims of civil war and unrest.
Macron was speaking at a dinner gathering members of the French-Armenian community in Paris on Tuesday evening.
France, which is home to an estimated 500,000 ethnic Armenians, officially recognized the World War I-era mass slaughter and deportation of up to 1.5 million Armenians as genocide in 2001. At least 22 other countries, including Germany, have taken a similar step. Turkey categorically rejects that the killing of the Armenians was tantamount to genocide.
Armenia says the mass killings were one of the first examples of genocide in modern history, predating the Holocaust carried out by Nazi Germany against more than 6 million Jews during World War II.
Turkey objects, saying that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and because of civil strife rather than a planned, systemic effort by the Ottoman Empire against the Christian minority.
Kalın said the “so-called genocide” was a “political lie” that had “no legal basis.”
“No one can sully our history,” the spokesman added.
Armenians commemorate the massacres on April 24.