Turkey has denounced and totally rejected a statement issued by United States President Joe Biden that categorized the mass deportation of the Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as “genocide,” underlining that the move will undermine the trust and friendship between Ankara and Washington.
Turkey has summoned U.S. Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield late April 24 to convey Ankara’s reaction to Biden’s statement, which “does not have a scholarly and legal basis, nor is it supported by any evidence.”
Biden, who took office as president of the U.S. in January, argued the 1915 incidents were genocide in his first presidential statement on the commemoration of April 24, the day of remembrance for Armenians.
“We remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Biden said in a statement. “We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated,” he said.
A U.S. official reiterated that the intention was not to place blame on modern Turkey, which the official called a “critical NATO ally.” “It is very much the intention of the statement – very much the intention of the President – to be doing this in a very principled way focused on the merits of human rights, and not for any reason beyond that including placing blame,” the official told reporters.
Turkey reacts to Biden
In a written statement late afternoon April 24, the Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed Turkey’s reaction against the U.S. president’s move.
“We reject and denounce in the strongest terms the statement of the President of the U.S. regarding the events of 1915 made under the pressure of radical Armenian circles and anti-Turkey groups on 24 April,” read the statement, describing Biden’s politically-motivated move as “serving only a vulgar distortion of history.”
“This statement of the U.S., which distorts the historical facts, will never be accepted in the conscience of the Turkish people, and will open a deep wound that undermines our mutual trust and friendship,” it stated.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, minutes after the release of Biden’s statement, underlined that Turkey entirely rejects the recognition of the 1915 events as a genocide, on Twitter. “We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past. Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal to peace and justice,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding “We entirely reject this statement based solely on populism.”
Presidential spokesman and chief foreign policy adviser, İbrahim Kalın, in an interview with Al Jazeera late April 24, contended that the U.S. administration had succumbed to the pressure of the Armenian lobby.
“The statement by the U.S. president politicizes historical facts for narrow political gains. This is really unfortunate,” he added.
Biden’s statement is based on unfounded allegations that threaten to damage normalization efforts between Turkey and Armenia, he warned. “We invite the U.S. president to correct this unfortunate statement that would open deep wounds in Turkish-U.S. relations and instead show an attitude that is fair and would serve regional peace,” he said.
Erdoğan accuses third parties
On April 24, before Biden’s declaration, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused “third parties” of interfering in Turkey’s affairs.
“Nobody benefits from the debates – which should be held by historians – being politicized by third parties and becoming an instrument of interference in our country,” Erdoğan said in a message to the Armenian patriarch in Istanbul.
“I respectfully commemorate the Ottoman Armenians, who lost their lives under the difficult circumstances of World War I, and offer my condolences to their grandchildren. We are all members of the human family, regardless of our ethnic origins, religious convictions, language and color. We have lived together, peacefully, in these lands for centuries. We find peace in the shadow of our crimson flag with the crescent and star,” he stated.
Erdoğan and Biden exchanged a phone call late April 23 during which the latter reportedly informed the former about his intention to call the 1915 events a “genocide” in his annual declaration.
Political parties lash out at Biden
Political parties in parliament have reacted to Biden’s illustration of the 1915 events as genocide, except for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Faik Öztrak, the spokesperson of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in a statement “U.S. President Joe Biden’s description of the painful events of 1915 as ‘genocide’ has gone down in history as a great mistake.” But he also blamed what he called Erdoğan’s wrongful foreign policy as the reason behind the deterioration of Turkey’s ties with allied nations.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said the history of the Turkish nation has seen neither genocides nor massacres, while describing Biden’s remarks as “scandalous.”
“The reason for the need for deportation [of Armenians], and the needs and national security considerations from which it arose, should be interpreted primarily in the context of the dark, bloody conditions of World War I,” he added.
History has made its judgement and the chapter of the justified, legitimate act of the state in 1915 is essentially closed, said Bahçeli.
Meral Akşener, the chair of the İYİ (Good) Party, called Biden’s statement a grave attack against the honor and reputation of the Turkish people, in a written statement on April 24. “It goes without saying the use of the word genocide by U.S. President Joe Biden will give a heavy blow to our relations.”
Hurriyet Daily news