The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Monday urged the President of the United States, Joe Biden, to quickly reverse his statement in which he considered that the massacres of Armenians in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide. The Turkish leader considered Biden’s words “unfounded” and affirms that they have weakened bilateral ties.
On April 24, Joe Biden took a historic step by being the first American president to recognize the massacres against 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire that occurred 106 years ago as genocide.
Biden thus fulfilled one of his electoral promises, after decades in which Washington avoided using that term for the events of 1915 in which the Armenians were systematically persecuted.
But as planned, his pronouncement angered one of his NATO allies, Turkey – the successor to the Ottoman Empire – and further complicated relations between Washington and Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Biden’s words were “unfounded” and that they opened a “deep wound” in the already tense ties between the two countries.
Erdogan demands that the White House leader quickly reverse his recognition. “I hope that the President of the United States will reverse this misstep as soon as possible (…) He has made unfounded, unfair and false comments about the sad events that took place in our geography more than a century ago,” he said in his first comments since the US president’s statement.
In addition, Erdogan asked the Turkish and Armenian historians to form a joint commission to investigate the events.
Turkey’s Legislature is also preparing a response against the recognition of the US President, Parliament Leader Mustafa Sentop said lawmakers would respond to Biden’s comments on Wednesday. The opposition and the Erdogan government show an unusual union against the action of the United States.
Turkey’s version of the Armenian genocide
The Turkish head of state refuted the figures of the tragedy. He claimed that around 150,000 people died and not the nearly 1.5 million claimed by Armenia. He maintained that the number was “exaggerated by adding a zero at the end.”
Turkey admits that many Armenian Christians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but it questions the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated or constituted genocide.
According to Erdogan, the deaths occurred in the context of the conflict and the fight against “Armenian criminal gangs” allied with Russian troops on the eastern border of the Ottoman Empire.
“These Armenian gangs, which numbered between 150,000 and 300,000 people, did not fight against the Ottoman Army or local militias, but killed unarmed citizens, massacred a million Turks and Kurds,” said the president.
Erdogan added that he hopes to “open the door for a new period” and discuss all disputes with Biden at a NATO summit scheduled for next June, but warned that ties between the two nations are deteriorating.
With Reuters and EFE