Luis Lacalle Pou described the Turkish Foreign Minister's gesture against Armenian protesters in Uruguay as regrettable

The Uruguayan president recalled that his country was a pioneer in recognizing the existence of the Armenian genocide. Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo summoned Turkey's Ambassador Hüseyin Müftüoğlu for Monday



El presidente de Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, en una fotografía de archivo. EFE/Federico Anfitti
El presidente de Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, en una fotografía de archivo. EFE/Federico Anfitti

Luis Lacalle Pou described this Sunday as “regrettable” the gesture linked to an ultra-nationalist group that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made to demonstrators from the Armenian community protesting their visit to Montevideo.

Speaking to the press, the president of Uruguay rejected the attitude of Çavuşoğlu, who was recorded on a video dedicated to protesters, and with laughter, a gesture linked to the ultra-right and ultra-nationalist Turkish organization the Grey Wolves.

“The gesture of a ruler to a community yesterday must be strongly criticized. As soon as we heard about what happened, we talked to (Uruguayan Foreign Minister, Francisco) Bustillo and tomorrow he is convening the Turkish ambassador to Uruguay,” he said.

The president also pointed out that the Armenian community in the South American country “is hurting and rightly so”, since the protests, which took place on Saturday in front of the newly inaugurated Turkish Embassy in Uruguay, were in repudiation of Çavuşoğlu stepping on the country the day before he scored the 107 years since the start of the Armenian genocide.

Lacalle Pou thus assured the community that both his party, the National Party (PN, center-right), and the coalition that forms his Government and “Uruguay everything” cares about the issue, since the country was a “pioneer” in recognizing the existence of the Armenian genocide 57 years ago.

Turkish minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made the symbol of a far-right group

However, as the local newspaper El Pais reports, the president dissociated the gesture that prompted Bustillo to convene Turkey's ambassador to Uruguay, Hüseyin Müftüoğlu, on Monday, from the importance of strengthening trade relations with that country, since yesterday the nations took the first step towards negotiating a treaty of Free Trade (FTA).

“Advancing trade issues with any country in the world does not mean sharing internal or external policies,” he added, emphasizing that “one thing is the work of Uruguayans and another thing is to endorse or confirm some political practices in some countries.”

Lacalle Pou's statements were given as part of his attendance at the celebrations of the 160th anniversary of the founding of the Uruguayan Swiss colony Nueva Helvecia.

The Uruguayan Foreign Minister will also be the keynote speaker at an official ceremony commemorating the Armenian genocide this Sunday.

Çavuşoğlu held a meeting with Bustillo on Saturday, after which both signed the terms of reference that begin the negotiation process for an FTA between the South American country and Turkey, the tenth destination of Uruguayan exports in 2021, with 212 million.

The paramilitary organization Grey Wolves, which denies the existence of the Armenian genocide and defends that Turkey is a single entity without distinction, was banned in 2020 by European countries such as Austria and France following attacks by its members against the local Armenian community.

La organización paramilitar Lobos Grises se convirtió en uno de los principales seguidores del presidente turco, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (EFE/EPA)
La organización paramilitar Lobos Grises se convirtió en uno de los principales seguidores del presidente turco, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (EFE/EPA)EFE

The Grey Wolves emerged in the 1960s and from 2016 they became one of the main supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The movement targets Armenians, separatist Kurds, left-wing militants and human rights defenders, and has been behind numerous attacks. In fact, one of the members of the group tried to attack Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in 1981.

Perpetrated in 1915 by Ottoman troops, the genocide of the Armenians is commemorated on April 24, the date of the first arrests of Armenian intellectuals, considered to be the beginning of these massacres.

The Armenian Genocide is recognized by about thirty countries and by the historical community. According to estimates, between 1.2 and 1.5 million Armenians were killed during the First World War by the troops of the Ottoman Empire, then allied to Germany and Austria-Hungary. Last year, at another historic milestone, Joe Biden became the first US president in office to describe the events of 1915 as “genocide”. Today, in fact, the American commemorated the tragedy again.

Uruguay recognizes the Armenian genocide, while Turkey recognizes massacres, but rejects the term genocide. Ankara speaks of a civil war in Anatolia that was compounded by famine, during which time between 300,000 and 500,000 Armenians and a similar number of Turks died.

With information from EFE and AFP

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