Turkey criticizes Obama message
Says remarks on massacre failed to note slain Turks
ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey's president said yesterday that President Obama failed to honor Turks slain by Armenians in a message remembering the dead in massacres nearly a century ago.
Obama on Friday refrained from branding the World War I-era massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey a "genocide," and instead referred to the killings that began in 1915 as "one of the great atrocities of the 20th century."
The phrasing of Obama's statement attracted heightened scrutiny, as using the "genocide" label could have angered US ally Turkey and possibly disturbed reconciliation talks between Turkey and Armenia.
President Abdullah Gul of Turkey said, however, that Obama should also have expressed sympathy for the "hundreds of thousands of Turks and Muslims" killed around the same period, according to comments reported by the state-run Anatolia news agency.
"Everyone's pain must be shared," Gul reportedly said outside a meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria. "It is not possible for politicians, for statesmen to make decisions on historic events."
Turkey's Foreign Ministry also contended that certain points in Obama's statement were "unacceptable."
"It should not be forgotten that several hundreds of thousands of Turks have lost their lives as well," the ministry said in a statement. "Common history of the Turkish and Armenian nations has to be assessed solely through impartial and scientific data, and historians must base their evaluations only on such material."
Many scholars view the events in the final years of the Ottoman Empire as the first genocide of the 20th century.
Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, contending that the toll has been inflated and that the casualties were victims of civil war. It says Turks also suffered losses, at the hands of Armenian gangs.
Turkey and Armenia agreed Wednesday on a road map for normalizing relations, but it was not immediately clear how they would tackle the bitter dispute over the Ottoman-era killings of ethnic Armenians.
Turkey and Armenia have had no diplomatic ties since closing their border in 1993 because of a Turkish protest of Armenia's occupation of land claimed by Azerbaijan.