(Reuters) – Armenia on Thursday rejected a Turkish proposal for an impartial panel of historians to test Armenian claims their people suffered a genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turkey.
“The historians have already said their piece and it is now down to Turkey to determine its attitude,” Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said in an interview with Reuters.
“It is not a question for historians. They have already done their work … But since Turkey denies this, this has become a political issue and so needs a political solution,” he said.
Armenia says the genocide is an established historical fact. It says 1.5 million Armenians died between 1915 and 1923 on Ottoman territory in a systematic genocide.
Turkey denies any genocide, saying the Armenians were victims of a partisan war which also claimed many Muslim Turkish lives. Turkey accuses Armenians of carrying out massacres while siding with invading Russian troops. But Ankara is keen to show it has nothing to hide amid growing calls, including from members of the European Union it seeks to join, for it to recognize a genocide took place.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan suggested on Tuesday that teams of historians from both sides should be given full access to state archives in Turkey and Armenia to settle the argument once and for all.
Armenians will mark the 90th anniversary of the killings on April 24. Turkey has no diplomatic relations with its tiny neighbor Armenia and its border has been closed since 1993 in protest against the Armenian occupation of part of the territory of Ankara’s regional ally Azerbaijan.