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Ankara miffed as leaders mark anniversary

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias took to social media on Thursday to mark the 103rd anniversary of the systematic extermination of some 353,000 ethnic Greeks living on the shores of the Black Sea by the Ottoman Turks between 1916 and 1923.

“We welcome May 19, paying tribute to Pontian Hellenism in every corner of the world. Strengthening the country’s protection and upgrading its international standing. And transforming into a battle the words that come with every trial this nation has gone through: I will not forget!” Mitsotakis said in a post on Twitter.

“We keep the memory of the 353,000 victims alive, honor the enormous contribution of Pontians to the country’s economic, intellectual and social life, as well as to its national struggles,” Dendias tweeted.

Earlier, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou had issued an official statement saying that “the international community has a manifest obligation to safeguard historical knowledge by recognizing this unconscionable crime. Today’s anniversary in particular, coming at a time when authoritarian revisionism poses a direct threat to global stability, serves as a deterrent so that we may never experience such atrocities again.”

Their statements prompted the ire of Ankara, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry issuing a strongly worded statement lashing out at the Greek officials.

“We categorically reject the delusional statements made by the Greek authorities on the pretext of the anniversary of the unfounded ‘Pontian’ claims, which completely distort history. It is clear that the efforts of those who try to draw enmity from history and mislead the young generations will not serve peace and stability,” it said, bemoaning what it said were the efforts by Greek authorities to misrepresent history.

“We also condemn the efforts of the anti-Turkey lobbies to deceive the public by bringing these biased claims to the agenda in third countries,” it said.