Turkey on Sunday recalled its ambassador to Vatican for consultation after Pope Francis described the killings of Armenians during World War I as "the first genocide of the 20th century."
"The statement made by Pope Francis on April 12 at St. Peter Basilica regarding the 1915 events is devoid of any historical or legal facts." Turkish Foreign ministry said in a statement released on Sunday on its official website.
"Turkish people would not recognize the Pope's statement, which is controversial in every aspect, which is based on prejudice, which distorts history and reduces the pains suffered in Anatolia under the conditions of the First World War to members of just one religion," the statement said.
"Our ambassador to the Vatican Mehmet Paçacı is being recalled back to Turkey for consultations," the ministry said in the statement after earlier summoning the Vatican's envoy to Ankara to the ministry and conveying the message that the incident has caused "loss of trust" and would be met with a response.
The Ottoman Empire relocated Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts and there were Armenian casualties during the relocation process.
Armenia has demanded an apology and compensation, while Turkey has officially refuted Armenian allegations over the incidents saying that, although Armenians died during the relocations, many Turks also lost their lives in attacks carried out by Armenian gangs in Anatolia.
The Turkish government has repeatedly called on historians to study Ottoman archives pertaining to the era in order to uncover what actually happened between the Ottoman government and its Armenian citizens.
The debate on "genocide" and the differing opinions between the present day Turkish government and the Armenian diaspora, along with the current administration in Yerevan, still generates political tension between Turks and Armenians.
Turkey's official position against allegations of "genocide" is that it acknowledges the past experiences were a great tragedy and that both parties suffered heavy casualties, including hundreds of Muslim Turks.
Ankara agrees that there were certainly Armenian casualties during World War I, but says that it is impossible to define these incidents as "genocide."
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