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Sculptor Blasts Ankara For Demolishing Armenia Friendship Statue

Artist Mehmet Aksoy says his "Turkish-Armenian friendship" statue is being demolished for political reasons.
Artist Mehmet Aksoy says his "Turkish-Armenian friendship" statue is being demolished for political reasons.
ISTANBUL, Turkey -- A Turkish sculptor has accused the government of pandering to nationalists by dismantling his controversial statue designed to promote reconciliation with Armenia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Mehmet Aksoy's sculpture, which stands more than 30 meters high near the Turkish-Armenian border, began to be dismantled by local authorities on April 26 following criticism in Turkey.

"I feel very bad as a sculptor because they are destroying art and the artist," Aksoy told RFE/RL in Istanbul.

"They are destroying our hope for peace together with that monument. The authorities are saying that they want peace, but that is a game. They are lying,” he said.

The sculpture depicts two figures emerging from one human form.

During a January visit to the site, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the monument as a "monstrosity” that overshadows a nearby Islamic shrine.

Aksoy claimed that Erdogan is simply keen to earn his Justice and Development Party (AKP) more votes in general elections due this summer.

"This looked like a message to the nationalists,” he said. "They'll now say, ‘See, Erdogan is good, he is a nationalist, let's vote for him.'”

The demolition has prompted strong criticism from some opponents of Erdogan's government and prominent Turkish artists.

One of them, Bedri Baykam, was stabbed and hospitalized last week immediately after attending a meeting that discussed actions in support of the statue.

The sculpture was commissioned at a time when Turkey and Armenia were involved in now-stalled talks aimed at overcoming a century of hostility.