PARIS—In an interview with FRANCE 24, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to change this year’s Gallipoli commemoration to coincide with Armenia’s marking of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was a “cynical act.”
On April 24, Armenia is set to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, which saw the deportation and deaths of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I.
“Our intention was to commemorate the centennial together with the Turkish people,” explained Sarkisian, noting that it was the reason his government invited the Turkish leader to attend the commemorations.
Instead, Erdogan chose the same day to invite his Armenian counterpart to the centennial of the Gallipoli campaign, which marked a major World War I victory for the Ottoman forces against Allied troops, mostly from Australian and New Zealand. The date of their landing — known as “Anzac Day” — is marked on April 25 every year.
Turkey has long denied the mass deportation and killings of Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide, claiming instead that they were the consequences of inter-ethnic violence inflamed during wartime.
Erdogan’s decision to change the date of the Gallipoli ceremonies to coincide with the Armenian centennial commemoration has drawn a sharp rebuke from Sarkisian.
“Unfortunately, once again we find ourselves facing a negationist approach and I’m sorry to use this expression, but it is a particularly cynical act. The Battle of Gallipoli did not start on April 24 , nor did it end on April 24, it’s self-evident. This is a way of injuring, of wounding the Armenian people and at the same time, it is intended to set obstacles on the path to centennial commemorations [of the Armenian Genocide],” said Sarkisian.
The April 24 ceremonies will be attended by a number of world leaders, including French President François Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin.