The leader of Turkey’s opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has accused Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan of playing a role in a 1992 massacre of Azerbaijani citizens.
Speaking to his party’s legislators in parliament on Tuesday, Devlet Bahceli said that Armenia should be held accountable for the Khojaly massacre.
“The real trouble is that the traitors who had a hand in the Khojaly massacre have taken on key positions in Armenia’s political and state life,” said Bahceli.
In 1992, Sargsyan was chairman of a “defence” committee for Upper Karabakh, during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Bahceli also condemned a recent Dutch parliament motion recognising the Armenian narrative that the 1915 events were a “genocide.
“Countries whose histories are stained by the slave trade cannot judge us,” said Bahceli.
“If the Netherlands are looking for a crime of genocide, they should look at the Khojaly massacre.”
In the early stages of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, ethnic Armenians were expelled from Azerbaijan, while Azerbaijanis were expelled from Armenia.
This forced population exchange was accompanied by pogroms and violence.
Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, on February 26, 1992, Armenian forces took over Khojaly in Karabakh after battering it with heavy artillery and tanks, assisted by an infantry regiment.
The two-hour offensive killed 613 Azerbaijani citizens, including 116 women and 63 children, and critically injured 487 others, according to Azerbaijani figures cited by Anadolu news agency.
A 1997 letter from Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization accused Azerbaijani forces of having “prevented the exodus of the local population through the mountain passages specifically left open by Karabakh Armenians” and “shot those who attempted to flee.”
HRW said it places “direct responsibility for the civilian deaths with Karabakh Armenian forces.”
Last week, the Dutch parliament passed a motion backing the Armenian viewpoint on the 1915 events with 142 votes in favour.
“The genocide [allegation] is the occupation of ignoble people. The committer of genocides is the common name of Turkophobes.” Bahceli said.
Turkish historians hold that the deaths in 1915 occurred after some Armenians sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Turkey acknowledges there were casualties on both sides during World War I, and sees the 1915 events as a tragedy for both sides.