Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Saturday he had no immediate plans to expel illegal Armenian workers after his threat to do so sparked a barrage of criticism at home and abroad.
Erdoğan, however, urged Western countries to stop branding the massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as "genocide," slamming such moves as attempts to "tarnish" Turkey's honor and "meddle" in its ties with Armenia.
The Turkish media and human rights groups accused Erdoğan of treating undocumented Armenians as a pawn after his threat earlier this week to deport thousands of Armenians working illegally in Turkey.
But Erdoğan said his remarks were aimed "at drawing the world's attention to our tolerant approach towards those people" and he did not mean that they would “take such a step immediately."
"What I am saying is that those who pass these baseless resolutions should see the humanitarian perspective from which we look at the problem. They should not meddle in our ties with our neighbors," Erdoğan said at a gathering of Turkish artists.
"We are not speaking about citizens or immigrants or refugees. Still, we have shown good will. We have displayed tolerance towards some needy people and we will continue to do so," he said.
"But we cannot stay silent when some people take actions to tarnish the honor of Turkey and the Turkish people, while we are displaying good will and tolerance," he added.
Erdoğan blamed the "genocide" resolutions on the influential Armenian diaspora in the West and "those who use them."
Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved a non-binding resolution branding the World War I massacres“genocide,” and Sweden's parliament followed suit last week, infuriating Ankara.
In an interview with the BBC Turkish service Tuesday, Erdoğan threatened to expel illegal Armenian workers if foreign parliaments continued to pass such resolutions, prompting a condemnation from Yerevan and harsh domestic criticism that his remarks damaged already troubled peace efforts with Armenia.