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ANKARA, April 24. /TASS/. For the first time in history, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Volkan Bozkir attended a liturgy on Friday commemorating the victims of the Armenian Genocide in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire, local TV channels have reported.
The liturgy is held at the Istanbul patriarchate of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Ankara has never before sent its official government representative to the event. Today Armenians around the world commemorate their ancestors perished 100 years ago during the tragic events in the Ottoman Empire.
"We deeply respect the pain which our Armenian brothers have suffered. And we who suffered as well [during that period] are not against commemorating those dead. For that reason, I feel that it’s my duty to participate in this liturgy," Bozkir said.
Despite a serious dispute between Ankara and Yerevan on the 1915 events, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that the republic was still ready to jointly study the archives on the events of the beginning of the last century.
"We have always said that we are ready to open our archives for studies. And our proposal remains in force. If Armenia has archives, they should be studied as well. Moreover, we are ready to also open our military archives. Here we are not afraid of anything and will do this without emotion," he said.
Erdogan said Turkey "is always prepared to build peaceful and good neighborly relations with Armenia and is open for that and is ready for a dialogue."
Before the start of WWI, the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire was about 2.5 million people. According to various estimates, between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians died in 1915 as a result of deportation and systematic killings. The Turkish government acknowledges the fact of mass deaths of Armenians, but rejects the term ‘genocide,’ saying the number of victims given by the Armenian side was exaggerated.
According to Ankara, the death of Armenians was not due to a targeted policy by the government, but came as a result of a civil war in the Ottoman Empire, which also claimed the lives of Turks.