U.S. says Turkey committed "genocide" in Armenia
U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday openly recognized the mass killing of Armenians more than a century ago as a "genocide," while Turkey immediately denounced the move.
"The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today," Biden said in a statement issued by the White House on Saturday, the Armenian Remembrance Day.
"We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated," Biden noted.
Biden is the first U.S. president to use the term "genocide" in describing the mass killing against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire, breaking with his predecessors who did not want to undermine relations with Turkey. In 2019, both chambers of Congress passed resolutions recognizing the atrocities as "genocide."
The Turkish Foreign Ministry strongly rejected Biden's decision in a written statement.
"We reject and denounce in the strongest terms the statement of the President of the U.S. regarding the events of 1915," the ministry noted, adding that the statement neither has a scholarly and legal basis, nor is supported by any evidence.
"With regards to the events of 1915, none of the conditions required for the use of the term 'genocide' that is strictly defined in international law are met," the statement said.
It noted that Biden's declaration will open a "deep wound" that undermines mutual trust and friendship between the two countries.
The Turkish ministry also called on the U.S. president to correct "this grave mistake, which serves no purpose other than to satisfy certain political circles."
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told local media earlier that Biden's statements were not legally-binding and would only harm bilateral relations.
"If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs," he said.
According to the White House, Biden on Friday discussed bilateral relations in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. U.S. media reported that Biden informed Erdogan of his "genocide" recognition plan in their first phone call since Biden took office in January.
Armenia claimed that more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a systematic genocide at the hands of the Ottomans during World War I before modern Turkey was born in 1923.
But Turkey insisted the Armenians were victims of widespread chaos and governmental breakdown as the 600-year-old empire collapsed in the years before 1923.
Armenians have long sought international recognition for the large-scale casualties during the Ottoman era as genocide, while Turkey, the Ottoman Empire's successor state, has claimed the mass killings did not constitute genocide.
The latest U.S. move could further complicate the already strained relations between Washington and Ankara. The two NATO allies have been at odds over Turkey's acquisition of Russian S-400 air-defense systems and other regional issues, such as the Syria conflict.