Turkey uneasy over Obama's Armenian remembrance statement

Turkey uneasy over Obama's Armenian remembrance statementAnkara - Turkey has reacted with unease to a statement released Friday night by US President Barack Obama where he described as a "great catastrophe" the deaths of up to 1.5 million ethnic Armenians in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire, CNN-Turk reported on Saturday. "There are parts of the statement that I don't agree with," President Abdullah Gul said on the sidelines of a conference in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

"Historical events should not be decided upon by politicians. Hundreds of thousands of Turks and Muslims died in 1915. It is necessary feel sorrow for all those who lost their lives," Gul said.

Obama on Friday called for a "just acknowledgment of the facts" but stopped short of declaring that the killings were genocidal, instead describing the events using the Armenian words "Meds Yeghern," which can be translated into English as "great catastrophe."

Whilst admitting that massacres and forced deportations of ethnic Armenians took place between 1915 and 1923, Turkey disputes the numbers of deaths and says that the events took place only after Ottoman Armenian subjects took up arms in support of invading Russian troops.

Turkey announced on Wednesday that it was in Swiss-mediated negotiations with neighbouring Armenia to fully normalize diplomatic relations and to open a border gate that has been closed since the Armenian invaded the Azerbaijan region of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1993. (dpa)