Ankara: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denied the World War I killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide, just days after his government offered condolences over the massacres for the first time.
"This is not possible because if such a genocide had been the case, would there have been Armenians living in this country?" Erdogan told US broadcaster PBS on Monday.
"We are a people who think genocide is a crime against humanity and we would never turn a blind eye to such action," he added.
Erdogan last week offered his condolences over the 1915 massacre, calling it "our shared pain" in a statement marking the 99th anniversary of the start of the killings and mass deportations -- an unprecedented move described by the United States as a historic gesture.
Armenia dismissed the statement, accusing Ankara of "utter denial".
Using both diplomatic levers and its influential diaspora abroad, Armenia has long sought to win the massacre`s international recognition as genocide.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million people were killed during World War I as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart, a claim supported by several other countries.
Turkey argues 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers siding with invading Russian troops.