Stung by Pope’s Remarks on Armenian Genocide, Turkish Minister Insults Argentina

Bergoglio has caused a 'problem of trust'

Turkish officials continued to vent their fury at Pope Francis on Monday, one day after he called the mass killing of Armenians a century ago “the first genocide of the 20th century,” at a commemorative mass at the Vatican.

Video of Pope Francis during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Sunday on the 100th anniversary of the start of the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians. Rome Reports, via YouTube

The latest outraged response came from Volkan Bozkir, Turkey’s minister for European affairs, who significantly upped the ante on his colleagues by suggesting that Argentines as whole, and not just the pope, had been brainwashed by rich and powerful Armenians in their midst.

In remarks broadcast on national television, Mr. Bozkir began by reminding reporters that Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires in 1936, is “an Argentine.” Mr. Bozkir then hinted that the country has a dark past of its own. “Argentina was a country that welcomed the leading executors of the Jewish Holocaust, Nazi torturers, with open arms,” he said.

Volkan Bozkir, Turkey’s minister for European affairs, criticized Pope Francis for describing the World War I-era massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

Mr. Bozkir then sought to provide an explanation for where Argentines might have gotten the idea that the 1.5 million Armenians killed between 1915 and 1923 in the last days of the Ottoman Empire had been slaughtered intentionally.

“In Argentina,” Mr. Bozkir asserted, “the Armenian diaspora controls the media and business.” The minister provided no evidence for his assertion and was not asked for any. (One prominent member of the Armenian diaspora in Argentina, Eduardo Eurnekian, is a billionaire who did once have significant media holdings, but he sold them two decades ago, according to Forbes.)

Argentina, which is home of the largest community of Armenians in South America, more than 100,000, angered the Turks in 2006 by adopting legislation that formally recognized April 24 as a day “in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.”

Turkey’s government has acknowledged that atrocities were committed during the period but fiercely opposes the characterization that the killing of Armenians was systematic and intentional.

”The 1915 events took place during World War I when a portion of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire sided with the invading Russians and revolted against the empire,” the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported on Monday. “The Ottoman Empire relocated Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts and there were Armenian casualties during the relocation process,” the report continued.

In 2003, the Argentine journalist Uki Goñi revealed in his book, “The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón’s Argentina,” that Juan Perón’s postwar government had clandestinely helped Nazi war criminals flee there at the end of World War II. Using documents from European archives, Mr. Goñi showed that the Vatican, Swiss authorities and the Red Cross had played key roles in the escape to Argentina of Nazis including Adolf Eichmann, Dr. Josef Mengele and Klaus Barbie, as well as dozens of French, Belgian, Italian, Croatian and Slovak fascists, many of them Nazi collaborators.

The Argentine journalist Uki Goñi outside Adolf Eichmann’s former home in Argentina. Uki Goñi, via YouTube

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