Turkey’s foreign ministry has summoned the US ambassador in Ankara to protest the decision by US President Joe Biden to mark the deportation and killing of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire as “genocide”.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal met with David Satterfield on Saturday to express Ankara’s strong condemnation.
“The statement does not have legal ground in terms of international law and has hurt the Turkish people, opening a wound that’s hard to fix in our relations,” the ministry said.
On Saturday, Biden followed through on a campaign pledge to recognise the events that began in 1915 and killed an estimated 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians as genocide.
The statement was carefully crafted to say the deportations, massacres and death marches took place in the Ottoman Empire.
“We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated,” it said.
The White House proclamation immediately prompted statements of condemnation from Turkish officials, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is yet to address the issue.
“The nature of the events of 1915 does not change according to the current political motives of the politicians or domestic political considerations. Such an attitude serves only a vulgar distortion of history,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also tweeted: “We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past.”
Turkey rejects the use of the word, saying both Turks and Armenians were killed in the World War I-era fighting, and has called for a joint history commission to investigate.
For years, American presidents have avoided using “genocide” to describe what Armenians call Meds Yeghern, or the Great Crime.
“Words cannot change or rewrite history.”
We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past. Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal to peace and justice.
We entirely reject this statement based solely on populism.#1915Events
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) April 24, 2021
The announcement comes as Turkish-American relations have become increasingly strained. The US has sanctioned Turkish defence officials and kicked Turkey out of a fighter jet programme after the NATO member bought the Russian-made S400 missile defence system.
Ankara is frustrated by Washington’s support of Syrian Kurdish fighters linked to a Kurdish armed group that has fought against the Turkish state for decades. Turkey has also demanded the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric accused of orchestrating a bloody coup attempt against Erdogan’s government in 2016. Gulen lives in the US and denies involvement.
Erdogan and Biden spoke on the phone Friday for the first time since the US election.
Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman to the president, tweeted Sunday: “President Erdogan opened Turkey’s national archives & called for a joint historical committee to investigate the events of 1915, to which Armenia never responded. It is a pity @POTUS has ignored, among others, this simple fact and taken an irresponsible and unprincipled position.”