Stockholm (AINA) -- Turkish EU minister Egemen Bagis drew sharp criticism in Swedish and Turkish media regarding his remarks about the Swedish parliament's recognition of the Turkish genocide of Assyrians in World War One. Mr. Bagis compared the Assyrian genocide recognition campaign to "masturbation." During a closed door meeting with representatives from the Assyrian Federation of Sweden on January 18th in the Turkish embassy in Stockholm (AINA 2-26-2013), he said "What have you Assyrians accomplished by using the Seyfo [genocide] question like masturbation by proclaiming it in the media and in the Swedish parliament? Why do you involve the Pontic Greeks into the question?"
Speaking to the Swedish paper europaportalen.se, which first leaked the news, the Turkish government at first denied the minister had expressed the insulting line, stating: "Our Assyrian friends who were in the meeting can confirm that the minister did not utter such words." However, Afram Yakoub, the president of the Assyrian Federation of Sweden, lashed out against Ankara's attempt to discredit the report, saying "What Ankara is contending is not correct, the minister did unfortunately use such language."
In an unexpected turn, Mr Bagis, who's following Turkish president Abdullah GÃ¼l on a three day state visit to Sweden, offered a disingenuous apology on Monday for offending Assyrians. Speaking to Stockholm based Assyria TV, he said "If I have said such a thing and it has offended people then I am sorry, I apologize."
Turkey denies the genocide of Assyrians of 1915-1918, which claimed the lives of 750,000 Assyrians (75%), 500,000 Greeks and 1.5 million Armenians.