Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cancelled his visit to Argentina after city officials in Buenos Aires called off the inauguration of a bust of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as a result of Armenian efforts, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Sunday.
Erdoğan was scheduled to visit Argentina on Sunday and Monday to participate in the Argentine-Turkish Business Forum and hold bilateral talks with government officials. But a crisis broke out when the Argentine government remained silent in the face of Armenian lobbying groups’ attempts to cause the cancellation of the inauguration of the bust of Atatürk, revered founder of modern Turkey in the capital Buenos Aires.
Written authorization given earlier by Buenos Aires’ Environment and Public Space Ministry was cancelled following efforts from Armenian circles and interests, said the Turkish Foreign Ministry in a written statement.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held talks with his Argentine counterpart Jorge Taiana on the sidelines of the third forum of the UN-led Alliance of Civilizations, which took place in Rio de Janeiro over the weekend. He demanded the Argentine government fulfil their commitment with the Turkish side, said the ministry.
Following the incident, Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner phoned Erdoğan, recognizing Turkey’s claim but notifying that she cannot override the authority given to the autonomous Buenos Aires administration under the Argentine constitution, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. In return, Erdoğan said such an attitude was unacceptable and cancelled his visit.
“Turkey has been making efforts to establish close ties with Argentina as part of a quest to improve relations with Latin American countries” said the Foreign Ministry in the statement. “Argentine authorities are expected to take necessary steps as soon as possible to make up for the shadow dropped on Turkish-Argentine relations due to the wrong decision made by the autonomous Buenos Aires city, which was manipulated by circles hostile to Turkey,” the statement said.
As well as skipping Argentina, Erdoğan cancelled two activities in Brazil after the latest attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, that killed five soldiers, a village guard and a private security guard on Saturday, the daily Hürriyet reported.
Turkey and Armenia remain in a long-running row over the 1915 mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. Armenian groups want Turkey to recognise the killings as genocide - Argentina is one of several countries to have done so.
Mr Erdogan had been due to meet Ms Kirchner on Monday but will now travel directly to Chile for the next leg of the tour.