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Turkish PM's Ethnic Armenian Aide Retires Ahead Of Killings' Centenary

  • RFE/RL

Etyen Mahcupyan, the adviser of Turkey's President Ahmet Davutoglu, undated

Etyen Mahcupyan, the adviser of Turkey's President Ahmet Davutoglu, undated

An ethnic Armenian adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has retired ahead of the 100th anniversary of the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

Etyen Mahcupyan, the first member of Turkey's Armenian community to be a senior adviser to the prime minister, told Reuters on April 16 that he was officially retired in March when he turned 65 but still informally advises Davutoglu.

Mahcupyan said the recent controversy over his comment that the Ottoman-era killing of Armenians qualified as a "genocide" has nothing to do with his job status.

He said in Turkey it is mandatory for civil servants to retire at age 65.

An unnamed source in Davutoglu's office told Reuters on April 16 that Mahcupyan's "duties have ceased due to his retirement."

Mahcupyan caused outrage within Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party when he said earlier this week: "If accepting that what happened in Bosnia[-Herzegovina] and Africa were genocides, it is impossible not to call what happened to Armenians in 1915 genocide, too."

Turkish EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said Mahcupyan's view that a genocide occurred in Ottoman Turkey a century ago is an unsuitable opinion for a prime minister's adviser to hold.

Bozkir said he considered the statement to be a personal one but that it "is not becoming of a Turkish citizen either." He added that perhaps Mahcupyan would have a chance to "reconsider his assessment."

A well-known writer, Mahcupyan's appointment as an adviser to Davutoglu in October drew praise as a sign of Ankara's commitment to minority rights.

Armenia marks the beginning of the killings -- which it and many other countries consider a genocide -- on April 24.

Yerevan says up to 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered and deported by the Ottoman Turks.

Turkey objects, saying that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and because of civil strife rather than a planned Ottoman government effort to annihilate the Christian minority.

The European Parliament on April 15 overwhelmingly passed a resolution which uses the word "genocide" to describe the killings.

The resolution also calls on the Turkish government to open its archives and "come to terms with its past, to recognize the Armenian genocide" and pave the way for a genuine reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry, however, said the resolution was an attempt to rewrite history.

In a statement, the ministry said lawmakers who backed the resolution were in partnership with "those who have nothing to do with European values and are feeding on hatred, revenge, and the culture of conflict."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said before the vote that he would ignore the result.

“Whatever decision the European Parliament takes, it will go into one ear and out the other,” he said. "It is not possible for Turkey to accept such a crime, such a sin."

Turkey is a candidate country to join the 28-nation EU, but accession talks have dragged on for decades with little progress.

Pope Francis sparked a diplomatic row on April 12 by calling the mass killing of Armenians "the first genocide of the 20th century."

His remarks prompted Turkey to summon the Holy See's ambassador to Ankara and to recall its own from the Vatican.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and hurriyetdailynews.com
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