TEHRAN (Iran News) – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on US President Joe Biden to reverse a decision to name the 1915 massacre of Armenians by the former Ottoman Empire “genocide,” warning that the declaration would harm bilateral ties.
In a statement on April 24, Biden honored “all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” becoming the first US president to formally refer to the killings as “genocide.”
“The US 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 on Monday.
“I hope the US president will turn back from this wrong step as soon as possible,” he added.
Erdogan stressed that the move would hinder ties, advising the United States to “look in the mirror.”
“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 indigenous people by European settlers at the end of the 15th century as they colonized North America.
According to a team at University College London, back then, some 55 million indigenous people died during the European conquest of America.
The majority of the deaths occurred by diseases brought over from Europe. War, slavery, and displacement also contributed to the decline of the populations of the indigenous community.
Erdogan said, “While all these truths are out there, you cannot pin the genocide accusation on the Turkish people.”
The Turkish president said his country still sought to establish “good neighborly” ties with Armenia, reiterating his call on Turkish and Armenian historians to form a joint commission to investigate the events in 1915.
Erdogan also contested the death toll and said some 150,000 people had been killed, as opposed to the roughly 1.5 million Armenia says were massacred.
The toll was “exaggerated by adding a zero to the end,” he said.
Ankara acknowledges that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One but denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute genocide.
Turkey also argues that such accusations do not take into account the number of the Turkish deaths during the conflict.
On Sunday, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara would respond to Biden’s “simply outrageous” statement “in coming days and months.”
According to Turkey’s Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop, Turkish lawmakers are due to respond to Biden’s remarks on Wednesday.
Biden’s decision came amid already strained ties between Ankara and Washington over a host of issues, including Turkey’s acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
Erdogan said he expected to “open the door for a new period” in relations and to discuss all disputes with Biden at a NATO summit in June, but warned of a further deterioration in ties unless the allies can compartmentalize issues.
Earlier on Monday, angry Turks gathered outside the American consulate in Istanbul to protest Biden’s statement.
The demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Genocide is a lie, it’s an American plan,” and also called for an end to the American military’s use of the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey.