15th Jun 2021

Turkey threatens to kick out Armenian migrants

  • Turkey's reconciliation with Armenia is on hold (Photo: zz77)

Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that some 100,000 Armenians working illegally in his country could be expelled "if necessary," as historic tensions over mass killings in World War I bubble up on the EU's fringe.

Ottoman Turks killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians in 1915.

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Ankara has staunchly refused to accept that the events amount to actions "genocide." But recent parliamentary resolutions in the US and Sweden have urged the Turkish government to accept the terminology.

Ankara retaliated by recalling its ambassador from Washington and by strongly criticising Stockholm.

But in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Mr Erdogan went a step further, saying that the resolutions "harm the Armenian people as well ...and things become deadlocked."

He threatened to deport 100,000 Armenian migrants who have no residence or working permits in Turkey.

Mr Erdogan said that out of the 170,000 Armenians living in the country just "70,000 are Turkish citizens.".

"We are turning a blind eye to the remaining 100,000 ...Tomorrow, I may tell these 100,000 to go back to their country, if it becomes necessary," he said.

His Armenian counterpart, Tigran Sarkisian, reacted by saying that such comments "do not help to improve relations between our two states."

Ankara was last year praised by the EU for its "historic" decision to unfreeze diplomatic relations with Yerevan, under an agreement signed in October 2009.

Normalising relations with its neighbours is an important step in Turkey's EU accession bid. The union is also keen for Turkish diplomacy to help pacify the South Caucasus region, a strategic energy corridor.

The Turkish-Armenian agreement is still pending ratification in both parliaments and things seem to have been put on hold for now, however.

During his first visit to Turkey on Monday, enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele voiced support for the reconciliation efforts and warned against politicising historic events.

"As someone who is coming from former Czechoslovakia, from the Czech Republic, I know that politicising your history is making reconciliation difficult," he was quoted as saying by the AFP.

Turkey applied for EU membership as early as 1987, but has begun accession talks only in 2005. So far it opened negotiations in 12 out of the 35 policy chapters it has to conclude with Brussels before joining.

Unlike other candidate countries, Turkey's negotiations are "open ended," meaning that its membership can still be vetoed by any one EU country at the end of the process.

Turkey calls for more active EU foreign policy

Turkey has called for the European Union to be more active than it currently is in foreign policy, particularly in its near abroad, a region where Ankara already considers itself a player. Meanwhile, Spain has said it will try and open four new EU membership negotiation areas with Turkey before the end of June.

US vote on Armenian genocide angers Turkey

Ankara has recalled its ambassador from Washington in protest over a resolution recognising the Armenian genocide in 1915. The move may also jeopardise a timid revival of Turkish-Armenian relations, one of the few elements of progress noted by the EU in its last Turkey monitoring report.

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