Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara April 22, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday offered condolences to the descendants of the victims of the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman troops during World War I.
Erdogan's statement, on the eve of the 99th anniversary of the start of mass deportations of Armenians in 1915, was the first such overt comment by a Turkish leader over the killings, considered by many as the first genocide of the 20th century.
"The incidents of the First World War are our shared pain," said Erdogan in a statement.
"It is our hope and belief that the peoples of an ancient and unique geography, who share similar customs and manners will be able to talk to each other about the past with maturity and to remember together their losses in a decent manner.
"And it is with this hope and belief that we wish that the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early 20th century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren," he added.
Armenia has been trying to get Turkey to recognise the killings of up to 1.5 million people under the Ottoman empire as genocide.
But Turkey says 500,000 died of fighting and starvation during World War I and categorically rejects the term genocide.