ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Wednesday refused to join a rapidly growing online petition by Turks apologizing for the "Great Catastrophe" of 1915, saying that it is "unreasonable to apologize when there is no reason."
The unprecedented apology was initiated earlier this month by a group of 200 Turkish academics, journalists, writers and artists disagreeing with the official Turkish version denying the Armenian Genocide. Their petition, entitled “I apologize,” was posted on a special website (www.ozurdiliyoruz.com) on Monday.
“I cannot conscientiously accept the indifference to the Great Catastrophe that Ottoman Armenia’s suffered in 1915, and its denial,” read the petition. “I reject this injustice and acting of my own will, I share the feelings and pains of my Armenian brothers and sisters, and I apologize to them.”
More than 11,000 Turks signed it as of Wednesday morning, indicating their names, occupations and places of residence.
Erdogan said Wednesday the apology threatens to damage improved relations between the countries and it is not binding for Turkey, an argument often used by Turkish officials to derail international efforts at nudging Turkey to recognize the crime.
"I neither accept nor support this campaign," Erdogan said in a joint press conference with his Bulgarian counterpart, adding the issue is still being discussed by historians. "I will not be a part of it."
"If there is a crime, then those who committed it can offer an apology. My nation, my country has no such issue," he said.
Turkish nationalists were similarly quick to criticize the online apology. A group of some 60 retired Turkish diplomats issued a statement on Monday describing the move "as unfair, wrong and unfavorable to national interests."
A spokesman from the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday the issue is ‘highly sensitive’ for the ministry and it does not support reacting to the apology.
Burak Ozugergin said the ministry did not urge the retired diplomats and ambassadors, who said Monday that "such an incorrect and one-sided attempt would mean disrespecting our history."
Ozugergin said Turkey’s stance on the "1915 incidents was well known by everybody," adding people should be able to comfortably discuss all issues in Turkey.
"However our foreign policy is not so flimsy as to shift as a result of daily debates. We will continue to act on principles," he said, declining to elaborate further on those principles.