U.S. President Joe Biden has frayed relations between Ankara and Washington “beyond repair” with his recent statement using the word “genocide” to describe the 1915 Armenian genocide by Turkey, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency argued Tuesday.
The Ottoman Empire enacted what is widely considered the first genocide of the modern world against Armenian, Assyrian Christian, and Greek populations in what is now Turkey. The Turkish government adamantly denies this occurred, claiming all those killed died in a war featuring violence on both sides, a claim not corroborated by historical evidence.
The Ottoman Empire was responsible for systematically killing as many as 1.5 million Armenians during the genocide, out of an estimated global population of 2 million. The genocide of Christian ethnic groups paved the way for the modern Republic of Turkey to be a majority Muslim nation.
“A new era has begun in Turkey-US relations since [U.S.] President Joe Biden took office on January 20. It is known that the two sides have their differences on many issues,” Yildiz Deveci Bozkuş, a professor at Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University’s Caucasus Studies department, wrote in an analysis piece for Anadolu Agency on April 27.
“However, it was not expected until the very last moment that Biden would add a new issue to those already at hand and take relations to a point beyond repair. On April 24, Biden used the expression ‘genocide’ in a message he published to commemorate the events of 1915,” Bozkuş wrote.
“[S]uch a decision by the US against Turkey, a NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] ally, caused the already-poor relations to suffer irreparable damage,” Bozkuş argued.
President Biden described the forced expulsion and killing of more than one million Armenians by Ottoman Turks from 1915-1923 during World War I as a “genocide” in an April 24 statement, the first time a sitting U.S. president has used the formal term “genocide” to describe the massacre. Turkey’s government officially denies that the Ottoman Turkish Empire’s killing and displacement of Armenians during World War I constituted genocide. Ankara’s reaction to Biden’s statement on April 24 has been similarly dismissive.
“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,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu wrote in a statement posted to Twitter moments after Biden’s “genocide” statement was released.
“U.S. President Biden made a statement that is unfounded, unjust, and contrary to the facts about the painful events that took place more than a century ago,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters at a press conference on April 26.
“Expressing his and the Turkish nation’s ‘immense’ distress over Biden’s statement, Erdoğan once more stated that the US president’s remarks ‘have no historical and legal basis,'” during the press briefing, according to Turkey’s Yeni Safak newspaper.
“As Turkey, we believe that it is inhumane to contest the sufferings of history,” the president said. “If you call it genocide, you should look in the mirror and evaluate yourselves.”
“Investigating historical events and revealing the truth should be left to experts and historians, not to politicians,” Erdoğan added.