Turkey accused U.S. President Barack Obama late on Tuesday of “distorting historical facts” in his statement on the 97th anniversary of the mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
In that statement, Obama said 1.5 million Armenians were “brutally massacred or marched to their deaths” by the Ottoman Turks in “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.” In an apparent appeal to modern-day Turkey, he called for a “full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts.”
Still, Obama again avoided describing the massacres as genocide, using instead the Armenian phrase Meds Yeghern (Great Calamity). He at the same time made clear that he stands by his past public recognitions of the genocide.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized the statement as “one-sided.” “We find the statement that distorts historical facts as very problematic in every respect and deeply regret it,” the ministry said in a written statement cited by the AFP news agency.
“We expect an important ally like the United States not to deepen the problem by adopting an approach harming Turkish-Armenian relations, but to contribute to a solution in a constructive manner,” added the statement.
Successive Turkish governments have claimed that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and not as a result of a premeditated government policy of extermination. They have also justified the forcible displacement of a key Christian minority in the crumbling Ottoman Empire, saying that it sided with invading Russian troops during World War One.
Obama’s April 24 statement was also criticized on Tuesday by the leading Armenian advocacy groups in the United States. They said he again broke his 2008 campaign pledge to reaffirm Armenian genocide recognition if elected president.
There has been no official reaction to the annual statement from Armenia’s government.