Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called on U.S. President Joe Biden to immediately reverse his declaration that 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide, a move he said was upsetting and diminished bilateral ties.
Biden’s historic declaration on Saturday has infuriated its NATO ally Turkey, which has said the announcement had opened a “deep wound” in relations that have already been strained over a host of issues.
In his first comments since Biden’s statement, Erdogan said “the wrong step” would hinder ties and advised the United States to “look in the mirror”, adding Turkey still sought to establish “good neigbourly” ties with Armenia.
“The U.S. President has made baseless, unjust and untrue remarks about the sad events that took place in our geography over a century ago,” Erdogan said after a cabinet meeting, and repeated a call for Turkish and Armenian historians to form a joint commission to investigate the events.
“I hope the U.S. President will turn back from this wrong step as soon as possible.”
He also slammed the United States for having failed to find a solution to the decades-old conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh – where the United States, Russia and France were mediators – and said Washington had stood by as massacres unfolded.
“If you say genocide, then you need to look at yourselves in the mirror and make an evaluation. The Native Americans, I don’t even need to mention them, what happened is clear,” he said, in reference to the treatment of Native Americans by European settlers. “While all these truths are out there, you cannot pin the genocide accusation on the Turkish people.”
Turkey supported Baku in the conflict last year, in which Azeri forces seized swathes of lands in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Biden’s statement came at a time when Ankara and Washington have been struggling to repair ties, strained when Turkey purchased Russian defence systems resulting in U.S. sanctions; policy differences in Syria; and legal matters.
Erdogan said he expected to “open the door for a new period” in ties and discuss all disputes with Biden at a NATO summit in June, but warned that ties would deteriorate further unless the allies can compartmentalise issues.
“We now need to put aside our disagreements and look at what steps we can take from now on, otherwise we will have no choice but to do what is required by the level our ties have fallen to on April 24,” he said.