Skip to main content

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media in his office in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Erdogan has issued a conciliatory message to Armenians on the eve of the anniversary of the massacre of Armenians almost a century ago, calling the events of World War I "our shared pain." In a statement released Wednesday in nine languages including Armenian Erdogan said he hoped Armenians who lost their lives are in peace and expressed condolences to their descendants.(AP Photo)

The Associated Press

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's expression of condolence to the grandchildren of Armenians killed in the First World War by the Ottoman Empire did not go far enough – but it is a welcome gesture, and a start.

The statement is not an apology, but it is still significant. It represents the first time a Turkish prime minister has used such conciliatory language to discuss what happened in 1915. At least 21 countries have officially labelled as genocide the First World War slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians. Most Turks, however, still believe what transpired simply was an unintended consequence of a complicated war in which many suffered. In the past, those who challenged that narrative paid dearly – some with prison time and others with their lives.

Some Armenian analysts have said Mr. Erdogan's words represent an "olive branch" and an "expression of humanity." At the very least it shows a willingness to talk. It's too soon to tell whether the statement will pave the way for an apology – something Mr. Erdogan has demonstrated a capacity for in the past, when he apologized for the 1937-38 massacres against the Dersim Kurds.

Story continues below advertisement

If he were searching for inspiration, he could refer to an open letter published in 2008, by a group of Turkish academics and writers: "My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers. I apologize to them," they wrote.

At that time, Mr. Erdogan dismissed it: "They [the intellectuals] must have committed genocide because they are apologizing. The Turkish Republic has no such problem," he said. Today, his softened stance could prove a possible precursor to reconciliation – which would mean Turkey going much further in acknowledging what happened 99 years ago.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies