Turkey dismissed calls for the recognition of the Pontian Genocide on Tuesday, saying that Greek politicians and groups raise “imaginary claims targeting our history.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara issued a statement for the May 19 anniversary of the day marking the Pontian Genocide, which is marked annually in Greece with solemn commemorations.
“19 May 1919 marks the beginning of our national struggle that led to the founding of the Republic of Turkey and is celebrated with pride every year in Turkey and abroad,” the statement says.
“We remind the claimants of these unsubstantiated allegations that the responsibility of Greece for the atrocities committed by her army, which also violated laws of war while invading Anatolia, and her obligation to pay a compensation, were laid down in the Treaty of Lausanne,” the Turkish ministry notes.
It adds that “these baseless claims targeting our history bear no relation to reason, conscience, and fairness. This rhetoric is incompatible with our objectives to further our bilateral relations and leaves a negative legacy to future generations.”
Greece responds to Turkish statement
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens responded on Wednesday to the announcement, stating that it was “an unsuccessful attempt to falsify the story.”
“Recognizing historical truth, self-criticism and abandoning revisionism are signs of strength, not weakness. They are a precondition for bona fide dialogue and the fight against the extremes of nationalism, the reconciliation of peoples and states, and their peaceful co-existence,” the Athens statement read.
The Foreign Affairs announcement added that “it is a historical task for all of us – and especially our neighbors in Turkey – to recognize events such as the genocide of Pontian Hellenism in order not to repeat the most bleak moments of the past and heal the deep wounds they left behind.”
May 19 is a milestone in Turkish history as it is the day when Mustafa Kemal, later to become known as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, arrived in the city of Samsun from Istanbul to organize the war which created the new nation of Turkey by ethnically cleansing all Christian populations, including Greeks and Armenians.
Ataturk dedicated May 19 to the youth of the Turkish nation, and commemorated it annually as “Youth and Sports Day,” a national holiday which sees young people stage sporting and cultural activities and official ceremonies across the nation.