Turkey rejects Biden calling Armenian events of 1915 'genocide'

Turkey rejects Biden calling Armenian events of 1915 'genocide'

Turkey "entirely rejects" US President Joe Biden's recognition of the 1915 Armenian events as "genocide", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, minutes after Biden's declaration.

Biden on Saturday said the killings of Armenians constituted genocide, a historic declaration that is set to strain frayed ties between the two NATO allies.

"We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past. Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal to peace and justice," Cavusoglu said on Twitter. 

"We entirely reject this statement based solely on populism."

Shortly before Biden's statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the debate over the Armenian claims, which have been politicised by third parties and turned into tools of interference, has helped no one. 

"We cannot allow the centuries-old culture of coexistence of Turks and Armenians to be forgotten," Erdogan said in a letter to Sahak Mashalian, head of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey. 

Turkey's foreign ministry said Biden's statement lacks any scholarly or legal basis and is not supported by the evidence.

The nature of events of 1915 does not change in line with the motives of politicians or political considerations, it added.

"We reject and denounce in the strongest terms the statement of the President of the US regarding the events of 1915 made under the pressure of radical Armenian circles and anti-Turkey groups on 24 April," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry added that none of the conditions required for the use of the term "genocide" - strictly defined in international law - are met by the events of 1915.

"The nature of the events of 1915 does not change according to the current political motives of politicians or domestic political considerations. Such an attitude serves only a vulgar distortion of history," stressed the statement.

The ministry said the statement by Biden, who is neither legally nor morally authorised to judge historical events, has no value, it said.

Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the United States should look to its own past in response to Biden's move.

"We strongly condemn and reject the US President's remarks which only repeat the accusations of those whose sole agenda is enmity towards our country," Kalin said on Twitter. 

"We advise the US President to look at (his country's) own past and present."

Turkey’s position on the events of 1915 is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.

Turkey objects to the presentation of these incidents as “genocide,” describing them as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.

Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia as well as international experts to tackle the issue.

Successive US presidents have refrained from calling the deaths of Armenians “genocide,” but former President Barack Obama adopted the Armenian phrase “Meds Yeghern” or “Great Crime” to describe the tragedy, a practice repeated by Trump.