Page last updated at 17:24 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Turkish PM scorns Armenia apology

Men stand besides the skulls and corpses of Armenian victims of the Turkish deportation circa 1915
Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died while being forced out of Turkey

Turkey's prime minister has criticised a Turkish internet petition which apologises for the "great catastrophe" of 1915 when Armenians were massacred.

The petition was launched by more than 200 Turkish academics and newspaper columnists earlier this week.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "I find it unreasonable to apologise when there is no reason".

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915. Turkey denies that it was "genocide".

Mr Erdogan said the petition risked stirring trouble. He called it "irrational" and "wrong".

Many international historians say the massacres and deaths of Armenians during their forced removal from what is now eastern Turkey were "genocide".

Turkey vehemently denies that, arguing that those who died were just victims of the turmoil of World War I, in which many innocent Muslim Turks also died.

The intellectuals behind the petition say they want to challenge the official denial and provoke discussion in Turkish society about what happened, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports from Istanbul.

The petition is entitled "I apologise".

A short statement at the top reads: "My conscience cannot accept the ignorance and denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and - on my own behalf - I share the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers - and I apologise to them."

The petition was condemned on Tuesday by some 60 Turkish former ambassadors, who called it an act of betrayal.

The Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink was killed last year for openly saying that the events of 1915 were genocide.

Previously he had been tried for "insulting Turkishness" for his comments on 1915 - as was Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel prize-winning author, who said that a million Armenians were killed "in these lands" and no-one dared talk about it.

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