In a sign of tension between Turkey and Iran, the Turkish government has asked for clarifications from Iran following reports of comments by its vice president for cultural heritage and tourism characterizing the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during World War I as genocide.
A news agency with close ties to the Armenians reported that Vice President Hamid Baghaei said Turkey was guilty of genocide against the Armenians in 1915.
He reportedly expressed his view Wednesday at a conference in Tehran marking the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Iran during World War II.
Baghaei allegedly drew a parallel between that event and the massacre of the Armenians decades earlier.
The Turks demanded an immediate clarification of the remarks.
The Iranians said Baghaei’s comments were taken out of context, and that he was only referring to World War II, and not World War I, and that he had added that Iran’s official position on the Armenians is identical to that of Turkey’s.
The Turkish daily Hurriyet said Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutogulu, had spoken with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, seeking an explanation.
During a visit to Anatolia Friday, the Turkish foreign minister confirmed that he had made the request. The Turks apparently did not suffice with contacts by phone and sent a special envoy to Tehran to follow the issue from the Iranian capital.
In addition to the diplomatic exchanges, the Iranian embassy in the Turkish capital issued a statement that the Iranian vice president’s remarks were not accurately quoted by several media outlets, and that Baghaei had only made a reference in his speech to the issue dividing Turkey and Armenia and did not take a position on the subject.
Despite the Iranian response, the Turks have made it clear they have not been convinced by the explanations Iran has offered and await clarification from Vice President Baghaei himself.
Baghaei visited Turkey last year for the opening of an exhibition about Iranian culture and his country’s shared heritage with Turkey. The exhibition was mounted in connection with the designation of 2009 as a year honoring the common culture of the two countries