ANKARA (Hurriyet)—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again slammed the media, accusing the press of distorting his remarks to the BBC about deporting Armenian migrants from Turkey.
In the same speech Friday, Erdogan also had harsh words for Israel regarding settlement plans in east Jerusalem and Tel Aviv’s treatment of Palestinians.
Erdogan threatened the “possibility to expel 100,000 Armenian undocumented workers in Turkey” in response to U.S. and Swedish lawmakers passing resolutions recognizing the Armenian genocide when he spoke to the BBC Turkish service late Tuesday.
Without giving any names, the prime minister Friday criticized “some” columnists for comparing Roma and Armenian citizens to undocumented immigrants. “This is disrespectful to my Roma citizens and my Armenian citizens,” Erdogan said, addressing his party’s members in a televised speech.
The prime minister stressed that he was not referring to Turkish citizens of Armenian heritage in his remarks made to the BBC. “Regretfully, it was quoted by cutting off the word ‘undocumented,’” he said. “It is malicious destruction because of the significant difference between Armenians and undocumented Armenian workers.”
“Especially the foreign press is attempting to arouse indignation by purposely ignoring the adjective ‘undocumented,’” Erdogan said. “There are dirty games [being played] even though I was the first Turkish prime minister to speak about mistreatments of minorities in the past.”
The Turkish prime minister also said that “baseless genocide claims” will harm the normalization efforts with Armenia. “You cannot write history through parliamentary votes,” he said. “If you are sincere about learning what happened, you can examine the archives and see what is true or not.”
“I re-call on Armenia and third countries to be constructive and responsible,” Erdogan said. “All initiatives that deteriorate the [normalization] process will carry a heavy cost – [not to] Turkey but [to] the creators and supporters of those malicious initiatives.”
The prime minister also expressed his anger at columnists who had criticized his remarks to the BBC. “Those columnists trying to teach me humanity should first defend the rights of Turkey. Look in the mirror first,” he said.
“Have you ever heard them saying anything positive about the government?” he asked, referring to his critics. “They have eyes, but are blind to our achievements.”
Erdogan also highlighted that his government’s “democratic initiative” encompasses more than just increasing rights for Kurds. Apologizing to Roma citizens on behalf of the state, he said: “My Roma citizens have not benefited from citizenship rights. We will fix these problems.”
“We have changed a lot of things with the [democratic] initiative. We are now in a position to understand each other better,” he said.
The prime minister also countered critics who claim that his government’s democratization efforts have slowed down. “The process of national unity and brotherhood has managed to create mutual empathy,” Erdogan said. “It has economic, social and security dimensions. We support this hope [of democratization] with concrete steps.”
Erdogan also harshly criticized Israeli settlement plans in east Jerusalem and vowed not to normalize relations unless the humanitarian tragedy of Palestinians comes to an end.
“Building 1,600 new settlements in east Jerusalem is not acceptable. It is a tactic to wipe Palestine out, piece by piece,” Erdogan said, noting that Turkey’s role is not confined within the country’s borders.
“We are aware of multi-headed politics in Israel. But this multi-voiced government should review this situation. As both the U.N. and the U.S. oppose [the settlements], such a step means ignoring the 1967 agreements,” he said.
Erdogan threatened not to normalize ties with Tel Aviv as long as the situation continues. “How can we make contact, my brother?” he asked, addressing Israeli politicians. “First, you need to align with international law and avoid any cruelty or outrages.”
“Turkey will not be present anywhere innocent people suffer,” he said.