Armenia’s government on Thursday strongly condemned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for using what his domestic and foreign critics regard as a racist slur against Armenians in a television interview.
During a live interview on the private NTV channel late Tuesday, Erdogan complained that the Turkish opposition is carrying out a smear campaign against him by claiming that he is of Georgian or Armenian descent.
“They have said a lot of things about me,” he said. “One of them came and said I was a Georgian. Then another came up and, I beg your pardon, called me uglier things, saying I am Armenian.”
“Such racist statements do not bring honor to anybody, particularly to a head of state,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, said in written remarks. “It is appalling that the author of that statement made it during a pre-election period, thus expecting that it might earn him extra votes.”
“This kind of statements are a fertile ground for ethnically motivated crimes such as the  murder of [Turkish-Armenian journalist] Hrant Dink,” charged Balayan. Such “racist” views are also at the heart of Ankara’s denial of the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire, he said.
Erdogan’s comment came just days before Turkey’s presidential election, which he is widely expected to win. It drew anger in Turkish media and opposition circles. A Turkish opposition lawmaker reportedly pledged on Wednesday to file a legal complaint against Erdogan, accusing him of inciting racial hatred.