ISTANBUL - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brushed off criticism that he’s trying to amass sultan-like powers, saying he really just wants to be more like Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Erdogan told state-run TRT channel on Thursday that his desire for an expanded presidential role would not undermine democracy - and he pointed to the UK as an example. “In my opinion, even the UK is a semi-presidency. And the dominant element is the Queen,” Erdogan said.

The UK is a constitutional monarchy, governed by a parliamentary system, but its hereditary monarch wields only symbolic power. Erdogan’s comments came after fresh criticism from the opposition that he would act like an “Ottoman sultan” once his presidential role has been boosted.

Erdogan said that leaders of presidential systems in the US, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico are not accused of acting like monarchs. “I mean, why is it only a monarchy when an idea like this is floated in Turkey?” Erdogan asked. “We need to speed up to close the gap in this race,” he said. “The biggest advantage... would be in abolishing policy-making through multiple channels.”

Erdogan became president in August after more than a decade as prime minister, but the opposition accuses him of transforming the state by imposing a gradual Islamisation and riding roughshod over democracy.  The August elections were the first time a Turkish president, traditionally a ceremonial role, has been directly elected by the people. In the wake of his victory, Erdogan insisted he now has a popular mandate to be an active and powerful leader.

Turkey is set to hold parliamentary elections in June, with the pro-Erdogan ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) aiming for a thumping majority to change the constitution and boost Erdogan’s presidential powers. “A new constitution is a must for a new Turkey,” Erdogan said.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey was ready to “pay the price” if found guilty of the mass killings of Armenians a century ago.

In a live interview with state-run TRT channel on Thursday, Erdogan said his country would take the necessary steps if historians conclude that it was at fault for the World War I-era massacres that Armenians say amounted to genocide.

“If the results actually reveal that we have committed a crime, if we have a price to pay, then as Turkey we would assess it and take the required steps,” Erdogan said.

Turkey has vehemently rejected the genocide claim and says up to 500,000 Armenians died in fighting and of starvation after Armenians sided with invading Russian troops. It claims a comparable number of Turks were also killed.

Last year, Erdogan offered an unprecedented expression of condolence for the massacres when he was prime minister but this did little to satisfy Armenians, who want the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million people recognised as genocide.

But Erdogan said in the interview: “It is impossible to accept such thing. We are not obliged to recognise so-called Armenian genocide on someone’s orders.”

He also reiterated that the mass killings should be studied by historians on the basis of documents and archives, and not politicians.

“If you are really sincere in this matter, let us give it to the historians. Let the historians deal with the matter. We have opened our archive and presented more than a million documents,” he said.

“If Armenia also has an archive, then they should open it too.... Then we can sit and talk as politicians,” he said.

Earlier this month Erdogan said Ankara would “actively” challenge a campaign pressuring Turkey to recognise as genocide the mass killings, on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy this year.