Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says charges Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians a century ago are being used as "blackmail" against Turkey.
Erdogan was speaking on June 4 in a televised speech in Istanbul, days after the German lawmakers passed a resolution to label the killings of Armenians during World War I as genocide.
"The issue here is not the Armenians,” he said. “They are just being manipulated. The Armenian issue is used all over the world as a convenient instrument for blackmailing Turkey."
"Our attitude on the Armenian issue is clear from the beginning: we will never accept the accusations of genocide," Erdogan added.
The World War I-era mass slaughter and deportation of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks is considered by many historians and several nations as genocide.
Turkey objects, saying that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and generally because of civil strife rather than a planned Ottoman government effort to annihilate the Christian minority.
Germany became on June 2 the 23rd country to recognize the killings as genocide (see graphic below), when a symbolic resolution passed in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, calls for a “commemoration of the genocide of Armenian and other Christian minorities in the years 1915 and 1916."
The move unleashed a furious reaction from Turkish officials, who warned that the resolution will seriously affect relations between the two countries. Ankara has already recalled its ambassador to Berlin.
In his June 4 speech, Erdogan also threatened to leave Europe "to its own worries" if Turkey is not treated fairly when it comes to solving shared problems -- apparently referring to a Turkey-EU deal aimed at tackling the flow of migrants to Europe.
“Either we find solutions to our problems in a fair way, or Turkey will stop being a barrier in front of the problems of Europe,” the Turkish president said.
In comments published in several Turkish newspapers earlier, Erdogan warned that Germany could lose an "important friend."
He also insisted that the vote in the Bundestag was a Turkish-German matter and would not pertain to the migrant deal with the EU.
However, he remained critical of Europe's progress on its side of the agreement, including on transferring promised funds to aid refugees in Turkey, and warned the accord could still be halted.
With reporting by AFP, Anadolu, and dpa