Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip ErdoganReuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday expressed anger over the pope's recognition of the genocide of Armenians in 1915-1917 by Ottoman Turks, pressing the pontiff not to repeat such a "mistake" again.

Ankara at the weekend summoned the Vatican nuncio and recalled the Turkish envoy to the Holy See in a furious reaction to Pope Francis' description of the murder of 1-1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman forces, reports AFP.

"If politicians and religious leaders do the job of historians then we will not get to the truth and only end with nonsense," Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara in his first reaction to the pope's comments.

"Respected pope: I condemn this mistake and warn against making it again," he said to applause from an audience of businessmen.

Turkey has vehemently rejected the use of the term genocide to describe the Ottoman era mass murders, and is keeping to its line in the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

Over one-third of the Armenian population was massacred by the Turks, in a campaign launched when Turkish authorities ordered the executions of much of the Armenian elite in Istanbul on April 24, 1915. Men, women, and children were later murdered by various means, including through forced marches, starvation, and poison.

The Ottoman government set up some 25 concentration camps as well throughout the period, and mass graves of up to 60,000 people were found in some locations. 

The comments by the pope, who visited Turkey last November, have led to unprecedented attacks on the pontiff by Turkish officials.

EU Minister Volkan Bozkir claimed on Monday that the pope had made the comment because of a strong Armenian lobby in his homeland of Argentina.

"I think Pope Francis made this statement because he is an Argentine. Unfortunately, in Argentina, the Armenian diaspora is dominant in the press and business world," Bozkir said, quoted by the official Turkish Anatolia news agency.

Referring to the influx of war criminals to Latin America after World War II, Bozkir declared that Argentina "welcomed Nazis, who were the lead performers of the Jewish Holocaust."