Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan turned down an invitation from President Vladimir Putin to attend the ceremony in Russia marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
The move by Erdogan appears to be a response to Putin’s decision last month to label the 1915 mass killings of Ottoman Armenians as genocide, the Hurriyet Daily News reported on Tuesday.
Yuri Teper, a Russian expert and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Manchester, told The Jerusalem Post
that it seems that Putin’s comments were exaggerated and taken a bit out of context.
Putin did not directly call the killings a “genocide,” but used the word indirectly, though in the context it could be interpreted that way, said Teper.
Putin did not say that the actions were planned, nor did he mention Turkey in his speech at the memorial event in Armenia, Teper noted. He did, however, call the events “one of the most terrible tragedies in the history of mankind” and a “crime against humanity and civilization.”
“I would say he tried to be as vague as possible,” trying to keep everybody satisfied, said Teper, who is a co-founder of the Israeli Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies (ICRES).
In any case, he added, Russia already officially recognized the Armenian genocide back in 1995.
“It was more the participation in Armenia’s official event that made Erdogan angry.”
Russian diplomatic sources told Hurriyet that Turkey would be represented by Ambassador Umit Yardim at the May 9 military parade in Moscow.
Diplomatic sources in Moscow told the paper that Putin had invited Erdogan in March and that Putin’s genocide stance led to Erdogan’s refusal to attend.
Erdogan said last week that Russia should account for its actions in Ukraine and Crimea before calling the 1915 mass killings a “genocide.”
“It’s not the first time Russia used the word genocide on this issue. I’m personally sad that Putin took such a step. What is happening in Ukraine and Crimea is evident. They should firstly explain these before calling it genocide,” he told a news conference in Ankara.
Putin accused Washington last month of putting pressure on world leaders not to attend events in Russia marking the victory over Nazi Germany.
Daniel Course, an expert on Russian foreign and security policy and a co-founder of ICRES, told the Post that relations between the Moscow and Ankara are complex.
“On the one hand, Turkey is one of Russia’s main trading partners and a main tourist destination for Russians, but on the other hand, they are competitors over influence in the Caspian region,” said Course.
“Moscow is trying to maintain good relations with all the local parties: Turkey, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan,” he added.
But, Course argues, Russia’s influence in the area is weakening.
Asked if Putin’s gambit on the Armenian issue was a political mistake, Teper responded that the move was likely made to improve his image, but that it also could have been a moral issue as Armenia and Russia have close relations and both follow Orthodox Christianity.
“Besides, since the dissolution of the USSR, Armenia has been Russia’s most loyal ally in the region,” he continued.
“Not showing up at the event would mean a grave insult to Armenians,” and if coupled with the recent incident of a Russian soldier massacring an Armenian family in the latter country’s second largest city, Gyumri, “it would have seriously jeopardized relations.”
Valery Permyakov, who was serving at a Russian military base in the Caucasus nation, killed seven members of an Armenian family in January.
Reuters contributed to this report.