The Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul on Sunday held a ceremony on the 107th anniversary of the 1915 events.
Sahak Mashalian, the patriarch of Turkish Armenians, led the ceremony held at Kumkapi Surp Harutyun Church.
Mashalian honored those who lost their lives during World War I.
“We should see the events that happened 100 years ago not as an incurable wound that was opened yesterday, but as the undeniable proof of our national and religious strength, resilience, vitality, and determination to exist,” he said.
He said that he finds the efforts to use the sufferings of Armenians' ancestors in the international arena as “overly politicized arguments” and “immoral” against Turkiye.
Wish for peace, friendship between Turks, Armenians
“Like our late patriarchs, who are our predecessors, we will continue to offer our wishes for peace, friendship, and well-being between Turks and Armenians,” Mashalian said.
“It should be the duty of all of us, but especially of policymakers, to build bridges of friendship, develop cultural and commercial relations, and turn geography into a fruitful table where everyone can win,” he added.
Noting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued a message every April 24, the patriarch said it is a sign of respect for the memory of the people who lost their lives during the relocation.
“In our opinion, it would be appropriate to consider these messages as positive steps that can pave the way for a rapprochement in the future. We would like to express our respect and gratitude to our president for these valuable messages that they repeat today," he said.
In his message addressing the Turkish-Armenian community, Erdogan said: "I, once again, remember with respect the late Ottoman Armenians, and offer my sincere condolences to their relatives."
"It is important for us, who have for centuries shared each other’s joy and sorrow, to heal the wounds of the past and further strengthen social ties," said Erdogan, adding that instead of increasing pain, "we should build the future together by drawing inspiration from our deep-rooted unity which dates back nearly a thousand years."
Turkish stance on events of 1915
Turkiye's position on the events of 1915 is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Ankara objects to the presentation of these incidents as "genocide," describing them as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.
The country has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkiye and Armenia, as well as international experts, to tackle the issue.
In 2014, Erdogan -- then prime minister, now president -- expressed his condolences to the descendants of Armenians who lost their lives in the events of 1915.
Turkish-Armenian normalization process
After the collapse of the Soviet Unìon, Turkiye was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia's independence on Sept. 21, 1991.
But, following the 1993 occupation by Armenian forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, the border between the two countries was closed and remains so to this day. Another contentious issue between the countries is the events of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire.
On Oct. 10, 2009, Turkiye and Armenia signed a peace accord, known as the Zurich Protocols, to establish diplomatic relations and open the border, but failed to ratify the agreement in their respective national parliaments.
Relations between Ankara and Yerevan entered a new phase in the fall of 2020 with the end of the second Nagorno-Karabakh war, which lasted 44 days in which Turkiye helped Azerbaijan recapture its territory.
The two countries have since appointed special representatives, Serdar Kilic and Ruben Rubinyan, who first met on Jan. 14 in Moscow. Their second meeting was held in Vienna on Feb. 24, after which both sides "reiterated their agreement to continue the process without preconditions."