Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Turkey threatens to expel 100,000 Armenians in response to the US branding the First World War killings by Turks as "genocide"

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said the position of the immigrants, many of whom have lived there as refugees for a generation, was being reviewed in the wake of the row.

Armenia claims more than 500,000 of its countrymen died in bitter in-fighting as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated at the height of the First World War.

Turkey concedes that tens of thousands died in ethnic fighting but vehemently disputes accusations that massacres were systematically planned.

Tensions with Armenia have recently escalated as a well-organised worldwide campaign has persuaded the American Congress and Swedish parliament to adopt resolutions condemning the incidents as "genocide".

An Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day Bill has also been put before the House of Commons and Mr Erdogan has warned Gordon Brown that relations would suffer if parliament passes it.

Turkish law already makes discussion of genocide an offence punishable by imprisonment.

"There are currently 170,000 Armenians living in our country. Only 70,000 of them are Turkish citizens, but we are tolerating the remaining 100,000," said Mr Erdogan.

"If necessary, I may have to tell these 100,000 to go back to their country because they are not my citizens. I don't have to keep them in my country."