YEREVAN (Reuters) -- Armenia has compared a threat by Turkey's prime minister to expel thousands of illegal Armenian immigrants to the language that preceded the World War I mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.
The two neighbors signed a deal last year to overcome a century of hostility and reopen their border, but the agreement has stalled as they exchange recriminations.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan made the expulsion threat late on March 16 in reaction to the adoption by U.S. and Swedish lawmakers of nonbinding votes branding the massacres of the last century as genocide.
He told the BBC Turkish service there were 100,000 Armenians living illegally in Turkey. "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 and Turkish-Armenian groups say the figure is inflated.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said today that such statements "lead to absolutely negative consequences."
"The events that led to the Armenian genocide of 1915 began with such statements," he told a news conference, urging Turkey to move ahead with ratifying the accords to establish diplomatic ties and open their land frontier.
Since signing the deal in October last year, Turkey and Armenia have accused each other of trying to rewrite the texts.
A backlash by oil-producing Azerbaijan, Turkey's fellow Muslim ally and enemy of Christian Armenia in the conflict over breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh, has also slammed on the brakes.
The issue of the Armenian massacres is deeply sensitive in Turkey, which accepts that many Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks but vehemently denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide -- a term used by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments.