Martin Schulz
Martin SchulzFlash 90

European Parliament President Martin Schulz told Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday that he "understands" Ankara's reaction to a vote calling the 1915 mass killing of Armenians a genocide, Reuters reported.

According to the report, which cited sources in Davutoglu’s office, Schulz also told the Turkish Prime Minister that the vote on the issue was made in his absence.

There was no immediate comment from Schulz's office.

The European Parliament backed a motion on Wednesday to call the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces a genocide. The vote came days after Pope Francis triggered fury in Turkey by using the same term.

Muslim Turkey agrees that Christian Armenians were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces that began on April 15, 1915, when large numbers of Armenians lived in the empire ruled by Istanbul, but denies that this amounted to genocide.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian hailed the resolution, and said it sent an important message to Turkey - despite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowing to ignore the vote even before it was held.

The Pope, who had spoken at an Armenian event at the Vatican on Sunday, told worshippers, "In the past century, our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies.

"The first, which is widely considered 'the first genocide of the 20th century', struck your own Armenian people," he said, going on to name the other two tragedies as the Holocaust and Stalinism. 

The Pope also condemned those who attempted to deny such crimes had taken place.

"Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it," he said.

Turkey reacted angrily to the comments, first cancelling a scheduled press conference at the Vatican, and then summoning the Vatican's ambassador to the foreign ministry for a dressing-down.

Erdogan then personally attacked the Pope in a public speech.

"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 at a speech in Ankara.

"Respected pope: I condemn this mistake and warn against making it again."