ISTANBUL - A Turkish deputy prime minister said on Saturday that it was "unfortunate" that Pope Francis had labeled the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide, and that it reflected the papacy's "Crusader mentality."
Departing from his prepared text during a visit to Armenian capital Yerevan on Friday, Pope Francis used the word "genocide" to describe the mass killings, a year after infuriating Turkey with a similar statement.
"The Pope's statement is very unfortunate," Nurettin Canikli told reporters in the Black Sea city of Giresun. "It is unfortunately possible to see all the reflections and traces of Crusader mentality in the actions of the papacy and the pope," he said.
Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests assertions that that up to 1.5 million were killed, and denies the killings were orchestrated and so constitute a genocide. It also says many Muslim Turks perished at the time.
"It is not an objective statement, and it does not reflect the truth and ... the whole world knows this and so do the Armenians," Canikli said in comments published by the daily Hurriyet.