Turkish Prime Minister Steps back from Armenian Workers Expulsion Threat


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.

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“We are not speaking about citizens or immigrants or refugees. Still, we have shown good will. We have displayed tolerance towards some needy people… and we will continue to do so,” he said.

But “we cannot stay silent when some people take actions to tarnish the honor of Turkey and the Turkish people, while we are displaying all kind of good will and tolerance,” he added.

Earlier this month, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a non-binding resolution branding the World War I massacres a genocide, and Sweden’s parliament followed suit last week, infuriating Ankara.
In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Erdogan had threatened to expel illegal Armenian workers if foreign parliaments continued to pass such resolutions, prompting a condemnation from Yerevan and harsh domestic criticism that his remarks damaged already troubled peace efforts with Armenia.

Erdogan put the number of illegal Armenians in Turkey at 100,000. Researchers however say that the Turkish authorities tend to inflate the figures to put pressure on Armenia, estimating the number between 10,000 and 20,000.

Following Swiss-brokered talks to end decades of enmity, Turkey and Armenia signed a deal in October to establish diplomatic ties and open their border. But the process has already hit snags, with both sides accusing the other of lacking commitment to the deal.

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