Turkish Prime Minister Dautoglu Says Pope Francis Joined 'Evil Front' Against Turkey

Istanbul — Turkey was on the defensive Wednesday, lashing out at both Pope Francis and the European Union's legislature for their descriptions of the Ottoman-era killing of Armenians as genocide.

Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the pontiff has joined "an evil front" plotting against Turkey by describing the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as "the first genocide of the 20th century."

Later Wednesday, the European Parliament triggered more Turkish ire by passing a non-binding resolution to commemorate "the centenary of the Armenian genocide." In a quick response, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the resolution was an attempt to rewrite history and threatens to harm bilateral relations between the EU and Turkey.

Turkey had responded to the pope's words Sunday by recalling its ambassador to the Vatican.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as genocide.

Turkey, however, has insisted that the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest, not genocide. It has fiercely lobbied to prevent countries from officially recognizing the massacres as genocide.

"An evil front is being formed before us...Now the pope has joined it and these plots," Davutoglu said.

He said Turkey was willing to confront its history, but added: "We won't allow our nation to be insulted through history, we won't allow Turkey to be blackmailed through historic disputes."

The non-binding resolution of the European legislature was approved by a show of hands of a large majority.

It included an amendment that commended Pope Francis for his statement, but has no immediate impact on the policies of EU nations or its other institutions.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it would not help Turkish Armenian reconciliation.

Asked about the resolution earlier in the day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended Turkey's present-day treatment of Armenians.

"There are 100,000 Armenians who are either Turkish citizens or not citizens in my country. Have they been submitted to any different treatment?" he said. "They benefit from all kinds of opportunities. We could deport them, but we don't. They are guests in our country."

He said that the European parliament resolution would be irrelevant, because Turkey could not accept that its history included genocide.

"Whatever decision they take it will go in one ear and go out the other," he said. "It is not possible for the Turkish Republic to accept such a sin, such a crime."