Turkiye has closed its airspace to Armenia in protest against its erection of a monument commemorating the assassinations of Ottoman generals who were responsible for the killing of Armenians during World War I.
The new memorial opened in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, last week commemorates the team that carried out ‘Operation Nemesis’, a campaign during the 1920s to hunt down and assassinate Ottoman leaders judged as responsible for the ‘Armenian genocide’.
The mass killings in 1915 are labelled by the governments of Armenia and many Western states as a genocide which wiped out around 1.5 million Armenians, while the Turkish government and historians insist that it was not a genocide but, instead, a harsh campaign against Armenian militias that took up arms against the Ottoman state and population during the First World War.
Operation Nemesis was then carried out in the following years by the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation, killing seven figures including Talat Pasha, a prominent member of the Young Turks leadership that controlled the Ottoman Empire throughout the last 16 years of the state’s existence and war period, and which is seen as the architect of the killing of Armenians and other ethnic groups in the Empire.
Speaking to the channel NTV today, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stated that “Establishing a monument in Yerevan in honour of Operation Nemesis is unacceptable. I can’t accept it”. He warned that further action would be taken if the memorial is not removed.
Turkish presidential spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, also commented on the issue, saying that it was natural for relations between Turkiye and Armenia to have their ups and downs, and acknowledged that the memorial was initiated by the city of Yerevan’s local authorities rather than the Armenian government itself.
“It was out of the question for us not to react to the Nemesis monument that was opened in Yerevan,” Kalin said. He stressed that Armenian authorities “tell us that this was not done by the central government, but was built under the purview of the local Yerevan municipality. If the central government is unhappy with it, it should act accordingly.”
The controversy comes after Ankara and Yerevan were seemingly on track towards warmer and improved relations over the past two years, with flights between the two having resumed and reports emerging that a land crossing across both countries’ borders for third country nationals was set to be established.