Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized US President Joe Biden on Monday for again characterizing the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces as a “genocide,” saying the US leader’s statement was “based on lies and false information.”
In a televised address following a Cabinet meeting, Erdogan challenged Biden to “learn the history” concerning the Armenians, insisted that such statements were “provoking enmity” between the Turkish and Armenian people and maintained that the Armenian people would suffer the most from the “hypocrisy.”
Historians widely view the massacres, deportations and forces marches that began in 1915 in Ottoman Turkey as a genocide. Turkey vehemently rejects the label, conceding that many died in that era, but insisting that the death toll is inflated, that the deaths resulted from civil unrest and that Ottoman Muslims also died.
Biden on Sunday issued a statement commemorating the 107th anniversary of the start of the “Armenian genocide.”
The US president had first used the term “genocide” during last year’s anniversary, fulfilling a campaign promise. Past presidents had avoided that word for decades out of a concern that Turkey – a NATO member – could be offended.
“Statements relating to the Armenian claims … are of no effect to us,” Erdogan said. “This is how we see the statement of the US president, and we do not even find it worth dwelling on because it is all based on lies and false information.”
Biden’s full statement, released Sunday, follows:
“On April 24, 1915, Ottoman authorities arrested Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. Thus began the Armenian genocide–one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century. Today, we remember the one and a half million Armenians who were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination, and mourn the tragic loss of so many lives.
As we reflect on the Armenian genocide, we renew our pledge to remain vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms. We recommit ourselves to speaking out and stopping atrocities that leave lasting scars on the world. And, as we mourn what was lost during the Meds Yeghern, let us redouble our efforts toward healing and building the better, more peaceful world that we wish for our children. A world where human rights are respected, where the evils of bigotry and intolerance do not mark our daily lives, and where people everywhere are free to pursue their lives in dignity and security.
This is also a moment to reflect on the strength and resiliency of the Armenian people. After enduring a genocide, the Armenian people were determined to rebuild their community and their culture, so often in new homes and new lands, including the United States. Armenian Americans are a vital part of the fabric of the United States. They make our nation stronger and more dynamic, even as they continue to carry with them the tragic knowledge of what their ancestors endured. We recognize their pain and honor their story.
Today, 107 years later, the American people continue to honor all Armenians who perished in the genocide.”