Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday responded to the recognition of the Armenian genocide by the United States by urging U.S President Joe Biden to reverse his declaration.
Speaking at a press conference following a cabinet meeting on Monday, Erdoğan denied that the deportations and killings of Armenians in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire constituted a genocide. He said that he made this assertion based on facts, and he invited the United States to send its own representatives to inspect the Ottoman archives on the events that took place during the First World War.
“I am speaking based on evidence, unlike Biden. We have over 1 million documents related to the 1915 events in our archives. I am wondering how many documents the United States has,” Hürriyet newspaper cited Erdoğan as telling reporters.
On the 106th anniversary of the Armenian genocide last Saturday, Biden reversed decades of U.S policy on the matter, describing the acts as “genocide”.
“Each year on this day, 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 traditionally released by presidents on Remembrance Day.
Before making his announcement, Biden told Erdoğan in their first phone call the day prior that he would use the word genocide in his remarks. After they were issued, Turkey summoned the U.S ambassador in Ankara to convey its displeasure while promising a response at a later but unspecified date.
Erdoğan reiterated previous Turkish arguments for denying that a genocide took place. In regard to the deportations that directly precipitated the deaths, Erdoğan said families at the time were given ample time to prepare for departure. He added that Armenian “gangs” working with the invading Russian army murdered local Muslim civilians and the deportations were targeted at these insurgents.
Turkey has acknowledged the deaths of Armenians in 1915, but refuses to call it a genocide.
In response to Biden’s declaration, Erdoğan accused the United States of hypocrisy on human rights. He explained that the U.S’ treatment of its own domestic minorities and foreign policy made Biden’s words “groundless”.
“We can also talk about what happened to Native Americans, Blacks and in Vietnam,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan tempered his denunciations by showing optimism about an upcoming meeting with Biden in June at a NATO summit. The two agreed to meet on the sidelines, according to the readouts of the presidents’ first call.
“I believe that we will open the door for a new period during our meeting in June [at NATO summit] by evaluating all these issues in person,” Erdoğfan said.