ISTANBUL (Agence France Presse) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday he had no immediate plans to expel illegal Armenian workers after his threat to do so sparked a barrage of criticism at home and abroad.
Erdogan urged Western countries to stop branding the massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as “genocide,” slamming such moves as attempts to “tarnish” Turkey’s honor and “meddle” in its ties with Armenia.
“These kinds of political statements do not help to improve relations between our two states…. When the Turkish prime minister allows himself to make such statements it immediately for us brings up memories of the events of
1915,” Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargisian said on Wednesday.
“It would be absolutely unthinkable to see dozens, hundreds or thousands of Armenians gathered by police and expelled back to Armenia. That would be a deadly blow to the image of Turkey abroad,” said Fabio Salomoni, an Italian sociologist from Istanbul’s Koc University who has researched Armenian immigrants in Turkey.
The Turkish media and rights groups accused Erdogan of treating illegal Armenians as a pawn in Ankara’s protests after his threat earlier this week to deport thousands of impoverished Armenians working illegally in Turkey.
But Erdogan said his remarks were aimed “at drawing the world’s attention to our tolerant approach towards those people” and did not mean that “we will take such a step immediately.”
“What I am saying is that those who pass these baseless (genocide) resolutions… should see the humanitarian perspective from which we look at the problem… They should not meddle in our ties with our neighbors,” Erdogan told a gathering of Turkish artists.