Ankara decries American resolution on mass killings
The decision by the US House to pass a resolution to recognise the mass killing of Armenians in the First World War as genocide drew furious reaction in Turkey yesterday.
Despite coming in the middle of the night in Turkey, the resolution – stating that US policy is to commemorate the Armenian genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923 – was condemned by the Foreign Ministry in Ankara and senior officials.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu suggested the House of Representatives’ “shameful decision” was a response to Turkey’s recent military incursion in north-east Syria. “Circles believing that they will take revenge this way are mistaken,” he tweeted.
Fahrettin Altun, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, sent a series of tweets criticising the “deeply troublesome” vote. He also drew attention to another US resolution passed on Tuesday – the 96th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish republic – calling for sanctions over the Syria operation.
US ambassador to Ankara,
David Satterfield, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry yesterday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Germany recognised the Armenian genocide in 2016 and France five years earlier. Turkey reacted then by temporarily recalling its ambassadors.
Mr Erdogan took aim at America’s own blood-soaked history.
“The step taken by the US has no value for us,” he said. “A country whose history is full of genocide, exploitation and slavery has no right to give Turkey lessons.”
He said he had yet to decide whether to visit the White House on November 13.
The mass killings of Ottoman Armenians is a highly charged issue in Turkey, where public discussion has sometimes led to charges of “insulting Turkishness”. In 2007, ethnic Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink was murdered by a young Turkish nationalist in Istanbul after a series of high-profile court cases relating to his writing on Armenian issues.
Most historians accept that pogroms and the forced deportation of Armenians from eastern Anatolia to the Syrian Desert from 1915 led to more than a million deaths. Armenian claims put the figure at 1.5 million and describe it as the world’s first genocide and a blueprint for the Holocaust. Turkey says about 300,000 died in the turmoil of war as armed Armenian bands sided with invading Russian forces.
The issue was exacerbated by a campaign of assassination against Turkish diplomats overseas by Armenian militants in the 1970s and 1980s.
The US resolution was the first time either congressional chamber has officially recognised the Armenian genocide. Previously legislators did not use the label to avoid antagonising Nato ally Turkey.
Two years ago, US President Donald Trump described it as “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century” but stopped short of describing it as genocide. His predecessor Barack Obama also declined to use the word, despite having promised to do so.
Armenian-American celebrity Kim Kardashian West highlighted the issue.
After the vote she commented on the “incredible numbers” in favour of the resolution.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan described it as a “bold step towards serving truth and historical justice” and praised Armenian-Americans as “the driving force and the inspiration behind today’s historic vote”.
Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, said the vote exposed “Ankara’s attempts to enlist America in its obstruction of justice … which has, for far too long, been denied to the victims and surviving generations of the Armenian genocide”.
Some observers noted that the US was punishing Turkey for its Syria operation.
“This decision will not contribute to having an open discussion about what really happened in the past,” said Selin Nasi, an analyst and researcher at Bosphorus University.
A country whose history is full of genocide, exploitation and slavery has no right to give Turkey lessons RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN President of Turkey