ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called Tuesday for an impartial study by historians of "Armenian claims that their people suffered genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turkish troops during and after World War I."
Turkey always denied the Armenian genocide but has been irked by growing calls–especially from within the European Union–which it aspires to join–that it recognize a genocide occurred as an historic fact.
Some EU politicians have even suggested that Turkey should not be allowed to start entry talks to join the bloc on Oct. 3 unless it accepts the genocide claims.
"We have opened our archives to those people who claim there was genocide. If they are sincere–they should also open their archives," Erdogan told a news conference.
"Teams of historians from both sides should conduct studies in these archives. We are ready to take steps on this issue.
"We do not want future generations to have a difficult life because of hatred and resentment," he added.
In an unusual gesture that underlined the sensitivity of the issue in Turkey–opposition leader Deniz Baykal joined Erdogan at the news conference to stress his party’s full backing for an independent inquiry into the claims.
"We are facing a political campaign (against Turkey)," said Baykal–leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
In his statement to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey–Baykal said–"It is time to put an end to the insinuations on the Armenian ?genocide,’" describing it as a product of a morbid imagination.
He announced that his party will host a symposium–under the auspices of UNESCO–with the participation of the world’s most famous scholars.
"If the Armenian scholars really have serious argumen’s and facts on the ?genocide,’ they should display them here. Those who talk about the Armenian ?genocide’ by the Ottoman government must present documentary proofs. If the events are nothing but the insinuations–however–the international community must be aware of that," he said.
Several foreign parliamen’s–including those of Canada–France–and Switzerland–have approved resolutions recognizing an Armenian genocide as fact–much to Turkey’s irritation.