Following votes in the US and Sweden branding the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in World War One as genocide, Turkey's prime minister has lashed out at the country's 100,000 illegal Armenian immigrants.
The 1915 massacre is a deeply sensitive issue in Turkey
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan threatened the future of thousands of Armenian illegal immigrants currently living in Turkey on Tuesday.
"There are currently 170,000 Armenians living in our country. Only 70,000 of them are Turkish citizens, but we are tolerating the remaining 100,000," Erdogan said while speaking on the BBC Turkish service on Tuesday.
"If necessary, I may have to tell these 100,000 to go back to their country because they are not my citizens. I don't have to keep them in my country," he added.
Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey 'tolerates' immigrants
Erdogan's comments add to ongoing diplomatic tensions between Turkey and Armenia, Sweden and the United States. Earlier this month, Turkey recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Stockholm after both the United States and Sweden passed votes labeling the World War One era killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.
A century of unrest
Erdogan said on Tuesday that the US and Swedish moves could have a negative impact on the ongoing attempts at reconciliation with Armenia, after a century of hostility.
His comments were met with a stern reaction from his counterpart in Armenia.
"This kind of statement does not help improve relations between the two states," Prime Minister Tigran Sarksyan said.
The comments meant "the events of 1915 immediately return to our memory," he added.
Muslim Turkey and Christian Armenia signed historic accords in October last year to establish diplomatic ties and open their border. However, that deal has not been finalized by the respective parliaments.
The issue of the Armenian massacres is deeply sensitive in Turkey, which accepts that many Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks but vehemently denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide - a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments.
Editor: Nancy Isenson