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Pope’s genocide claim encourages racism: Turkey PM

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Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the pope’s remarks describing Armenians as the victims of “the first genocide of the 20th century” are wrong and encourage racism in Europe.

Pope Francis made the comments at a special remembrance mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday. Turkey immediately recalled its ambassador to the Vatican for consultations in Ankara.

Turkey denies that the mass deportation and killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I was genocide. Armenians say up to 1.5 million people were killed.

The pope’s remarks were “false and nonsensical” and would “contribute to rising racism in Europe,” Davutoglu said late on Sunday, also accusing the Catholic leader of focusing only one side’s suffering.

Turkey, the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, says both Turks and Armenians were killed in unrest during the war and accuses Armenia of inflating the number of people who died. The deportations were said to be for security reasons.

John Paul II, when he was pope, had also referred to the Armenian killings as genocide.

Official commemorations of the massacres are to take place on 24 April in Armenia. Memorial events are also scheduled in Istanbul, where on that day in 1915 more than 200 Armenian community leaders were rounded up by police to be deported. News24

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