Turkish PM Threatens To Expel 100,000 Armenians Over Genocide Vote

Adam Gabbatt and agencies

Thursday 18 March 2010 14.52 GMT

Tayyip Erdogan says he ‘may have to tell these 100,000 to go back to
their country’ after the 1915 Ottoman killings vote

Tayyip Erdogan, left, and his deputy Bulent Arinc in Ankara last month.

Turkey’s prime minister has threatened to expel 100,000 Armenian
immigrants after the US and Sweden agreed to describe first world
war killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

Earlier this month, the US House committee on foreign affairs voted
by 23-22 that the massacre of around 1.5 million Armenians in 1915
should be classified as genocide.

Turkey, a Nato member and candidate to join the European Union,
withdrew its ambassador from the US in the wake of the vote, as it
did from Sweden days later, when the Swedish parliament also agreed
the slaughter should be described as genocide.

Turkey warned the decisions could undermine efforts at reconciliation
with Armenia after decades of hostility, and yesterday, Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan gave a clear warning what the consequences would be
if the votes, which are non-binding, were ratified.

"There are currently 170,000 Armenians living in our country. Only
70,000 of them are Turkish citizens, but we are tolerating the
remaining 100,000," he told the BBC Turkish service.

"If necessary, I may have to tell these 100,000 to go back to their
country because they are not my citizens. I don’t have to keep them
in my country."

Armenia believes Turkey killed over 1 million Armenians when they were
deported from Turkish Armenia in 1915 and sent to Syria or Palestine.

Erdogan’s threat to expel tens of thousands of immigrants was
criticised by the Armenian prime minister, Tigran Sarksyan.

"This kind of political statement does not help improve relations
between the two states," he said.

"I agree with the assessment that when the Turkish prime minister
allows himself to make such statements, the events of 1915 immediately
return to our memory."

Turkey’s reaction to the US vote in particular has led to speculation
that the country may prevent the US army’s use of the Incirlik air
base in south-east Turkey, which provides logistical support to troops
travelling to and from Iraq.

Turkey experienced a huge influx of people from Armenia after the
country’s devastating earthquake in 1988. Thousands of illegal
Armenian immigrants work in low-skilled jobs in Turkey, although
there is dispute over the exact number.

Armenian immigrants had been permitted to work in Turkey as a
"display of our peaceful approach," Erdogan said, but he added:
"We have to get something in return."

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