Turkish PM’s Armenian-origin advisor steps down: official

Etyen Mahcupyan, the first member of Turkey's Armenian community to work closely with the Turkish PM, has retired

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The first ever member of Turkey's Armenian community to hold the post of senior advisor to the Turkish prime minister has retired, an official told AFP on Thursday, after he described the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a "genocide".

The official, who asked not to be named, denied any link between the departure of Etyen Mahcupyan and the looming 100th anniversary on April 24 of the start of the 1915 killings of Armenians, which Yerevan regards as genocide.

Mahcupyan, 65, "has retired on the grounds of age," the official said, noting this was the age limit for all Turkish civil servants.

Mahcupyan, who was appointed last year as senior advisor to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, infuriated some within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) this week when he qualified the mass killings of Armenians as a "genocide."

"If accepting that what happened in Bosnia and Africa were genocides, it is impossible not to call what happened to Armenians in 1915 genocide too," Mahcupyan said in an interview published this week.

Turkey, which has always rejected the term genocide, has taken a defiant line amid growing tensions over the characterization of the tragedy ahead of the 100th anniversary.

The European Parliament on Wednesday urged Turkey to use the centenary of Ottoman-era massacres to "recognize the Armenian genocide" and help promote reconciliation between the two peoples.

The use of the word by Pope Francis on Sunday infuriated Ankara and prompted Davutoglu to accuse the pontiff of "blackmail" against Turkey.

In an interview with AFP in December, Mahcupyan said 2015 would be a "tough year" because of the anniversary.

He said the priority for the future should be establishing relations with Armenia as well as the millions-strong diaspora, many of whom harbor a deep hatred of Turkey.

A small but prominent community of Turkish-Armenians remains in the country, mostly based in Istanbul.

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