Turkey’s government said Thursday that Etyen Mahcupyan, a former adviser to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, has “retired.” The announcement came just days after Mahcupyan described the World War I-era massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide. Turkish officials denied any connection between his comments and his retirement.

The 65-year-old official automatically “retired on the grounds of age” because he reached the upper age limit for government employees, an unnamed Turkish official told Agence France-Presse. Mahcupyan, who was the first ethnic Armenian to become a senior aide to a Turkish prime minister, spoke out this week in advance of the 100th anniversary of the start of the killings, which Armenians allege were systematically carried out by the Ottoman Empire starting in 1915.

“If accepting that what happened in Bosnia and Africa were genocides, it is impossible not to call what happened to Armenians in 1915 a genocide too,” Maycupyan said in an interview with a Turkish media outlet. Maycupyan denied this week that he had been fired for his comments and said he had merely reached the mandatory retirement age.

The Turkish government has never acknowledged the World War I-era massacres as an intentional campaign, asserting instead that both the Armenians and the Turks suffered casualties during a revolt and that the deaths occurred on a smaller scale. Officials routinely criticize foreign leaders who use the genocide label. Turkish European Union Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir condemned Maycupyan’s comments this week.

“Naturally, those views were not suitable for a Turkish citizen. Maybe he will himself make a re-evaluation,” Bozkir said.

Pope Francis angered Turkey’s top officials this week when he referred to the Armenian killings as the “first genocide of the 20th century,” the Wall Street Journal reported. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a strong rebuke.

“We will not allow historical incidents to be taken out of their genuine context, and be used as a tool to campaign against our country,” Erdoğan said in a speech Tuesday, according to Al Jazeera. “I condemn the pope and would like to warn him not to make similar mistakes again.”