Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been urged to follow the lead of the Pope in recognising the Ottoman Turks’ slaughter of up to 1.5 million Armenians and other Christians in 1915 as the first genocide of the 20th century, opening the way for an uneasy diplomatic battle in the lead-up to Anzac Day, according to The Australian.
Australia’s Armenian community yesterday praised the leader of the world’s Catholics for recognising what it claims was a genocide perpetrated on their people.
Armenian National Committee of Australia executive director Vache Kahramanian praised the Pope. “It’s a very welcome development that the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics has used his divine liturgy to put on record the historical reality and importance of never forgetting such abhorrent crimes,” he said.
He hoped the Pope’s message would put international pressure on Turkey to recognise the “crime of genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire … We are also hoping it will awaken Tony Abbott’s conscience and he’ll act in the footsteps of the pontiff, being a devout Catholic, in recognising the genocide and rejecting Turkey’s ongoing gag on the international community,” he said.
Mr Kahramanian accused Turkey of blackmailing countries, including Australia, by threatening to close Gallipoli to citizens of those nations that recognise the killings as genocide ahead of the centenary celebrations or cease co-operating with forces battling Islamic State insurgents in the Middle East.
“For me as an Australian citizen, I’m worried our foreign policy is being dictated not by Canberra, but by a foreign government,” Mr Kahramanian said.
“I believe the Australian government can recognise the very positive bonds of friendship formed between Australia and Turkey at Gallipoli, but at the same time acknowledge what happened 100 years ago was genocide.”
Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance executive secretary Gunes Gungor agreed “100 per cent” with Turkey’s stance on the issue and accused the Pope of being under the influence of the Armenian lobby in his home country of Argentina.
“The Pope’s comments are ignorant about the historical facts and the lives of hundreds of thousands of the innocent Muslims who also lost their lives ,” Mr Gungor said.
He accused the Pope of “falsifying history” to distract from criticism the Catholic Church has faced over sex-abuse scandals.
Mr Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment, The Australian writes.