LONDON (combined sources)–The British government faces a backlash from Turkey over its plans to mention the controversial massacres of Armenia’s by the Ottoman Empire at an official Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony to take place next weekend.
The government had said the ceremony to remember victims of genocide would concentrate only on the Holocaust and later massacres–but under pressure from Armenian lobby groups the government decided to modify the program to include the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenia’s in 1915 by the Young Turks regime.
A British Home Office official–in an interview with the paper–denied the government had back-peddled–saying the plan had always been "to mention everything" during the ceremony. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prince Charles are due to attend the ceremony.
A spokesman for the Turkish embassy in London said his country would "object in the strongest terms" to the inclusion–adding Turkey had not been informed of the plan. He reiterated his country’s stiff opposition to the term "genocide" being applied to the killings of Armenia’s amidst the chaotic dissolution years of the Ottoman Empire.
"It was not genocide–it was different. It was not an attempt by a government to destroy a people," the spokesman’said–adding "the figures about the number of people killed are inaccurate." Armenia’s say that 1.5 million people died in orchestrated massacres and mass deportations between 1915 and 1917–but Turkey puts the figure between 300,000 and half a million. French deputies provoked a deep rift in their country’s relations with Turkey on January 18 by adopting a bill that recognizes the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenia’s under Turkish rule more than 80 years ago as genocide. Turkey has recalled its ambassador to France in protest.