16:38, 24 Apr 2015
Siranush Ghazanchyan

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey shares the pain
of the Armenian community on the centennial anniversary of the mass
deportation of Ottoman Armenians, which he described as "sorrowful
events," the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

Erdogan's message, addressed to Acting Patriarch Aram AteÅ~_yan in
Turkish, Armenian and English, was read at a religious ceremony held
by the Armenian Patriarchate at Mother Mary Church in Istanbul on April
24 to honor the memory of Ottoman Armenians killed during World War I.

"Let me reiterate that we are cognizant of the sorrowful events
experienced in the past by the Armenian community and that I sincerely
share your pain. Please rest assured also that our hearts remain
wide open to the grandchildren of the Ottoman Armenians all around
the world," he said in the statement.

Erdogan also acknowledged that the day carried "a special significance"
for Turkey's Armenian citizens. "I once again respectfully commemorate
all the Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives amid the conditions
of the World War I and extend my condolences to their children and
grandchildren," he added.

The Turkish government was represented by EU Minister Volkan Bozkır
at the religious ceremony, as Erdogan was in the Canakkale province to
attend the events marking the centennial anniversary of the Gallipoli
campaign in 1915.

"We would like to see studies focused on the years between 1870 to
1920s, including World War I, instead of only 1915. As such, it would
be possible to look at our common history and to reveal a common,
just memory," Bozkır said at the event, which was officially held
for the first time since 1916.

Turkey denies that the killings of Ottoman Armenians, at a time when
Turkish troops were fighting Russian forces, constituted genocide. It
says there was no organized campaign to wipe out Armenians and no
evidence of any such orders from the Ottoman authorities.