YEREVAN (Azatutyun. am)—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly condemned an Armenian member of Turkey’s parliament for demanding that Ankara officially recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
Erdogan said that a corresponding parliamentary resolution drafted by the opposition lawmaker, Garo Paylan, amounts to high treason.
The resolution not only calls for formal recognition of the genocide but also says that the Turkish authorities must rename streets bearing the names of Ottoman masterminds of the genocide and offer Turkish citizenship to Armenian descendants of its survivors.
Paylan circulated the measure ahead of the 107th anniversary of the slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians marked on Sunday. Speaker Mustafa Sentop refused to include it on the parliament agenda.
Paylan’s initiative provoked a storm of criticism from other senior Turkish officials as well as a spokesman for the ruling AKP party.
“We regard as clear treason the manifestation of such brazenness in this body symbolizing the expression of national will,” Erdogan said after chairing a cabinet meeting in Ankara on Monday.
Erdogan said that the Turkish authorities will take “appropriate actions” against Paylan. But he did not clarify whether the 49-year-old lawmaker representing the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP will face criminal charges.
The authorities have for years tried to strip Paylan of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
Speaking to the CNN-Turk TV channel, Paylan described the furious reaction to his initiative as unprecedented. He said that similar resolutions drafted in the past did not cause such a government outcry.
“I haven’t changed, which means that Turkey has,” he said, adding that Erdogan’s government is no longer willing to tolerate public actions challenging the official Turkish version of the events of 1915.
The HDP is the only major Turkish party to have recognized the World War One-era mass killings of Armenians as genocide.
Successive Turkish governments have denied a premeditated government effort to exterminate Ottoman Turkey’s Armenian population. Erdogan alleged in 2019 that Armenians themselves massacred Muslim civilians and that their mass deportations to a Syrian desert were “the most reasonable action that could be taken” by the Ottoman government.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu underscored Ankara’s stance on Saturday when he publicly made a hand gesture associated with the Turkish ultranationalist group Gray Wolves during a visit to Uruguay. Cavusoglu gestured to members of the South American country’s Armenian community demonstrating outside the Turkish Embassy in the capital Montevideo.