Turkey furiously decries 'shameful' US Armenian genocide resolution

Politicians say US bill had no value and point to American history full of 'genocide, exploitation and slavery'

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets lawmakers from his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, October 30, 2019. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE
Powered by automated translation

Turkey on Wednesday reacted furiously to the decision of the US Congress to pass a resolution recognising the mass killings of Armenians in the First World War as genocide.

The resolution stating that US policy is to commemorate the Armenian genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923 was immediately condemned by the Foreign Ministry in Ankara and senior officials in the middle of the night.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said 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,” Mr Cavusoglu tweeted.

Fahrettin Altun, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, posted early-hour tweets criticising the “deeply troublesome” vote.

Mr Altun also drew attention to another resolution passed on Tuesday, which was the 96th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish republic, calling for sanctions over the Syria operation.

The step taken by the US has no value for us and we don't recognise it ... A country whose history is full of genocide, exploitation and slavery has no right to give Turkey lessons

US ambassador to Ankara, David Satterfield, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday morning, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkey temporarily recalled its ambassadors, as it did when Germany in 2016 and France in 2011 recognised the Armenian genocide.

Addressing his party’s MPs in Parliament, Mr Erdogan spoke of America’s bloody history.

“The step taken by the US has no value for us and we don’t recognise it,” he said. “A country whose history is full of genocide, exploitation and slavery has no right to give Turkey lessons.”

Mr Erdogan said he had yet to decide whether he would visit the White House on November 13 as planned.

The mass killings of Ottoman Armenians has been 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 say it was 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 assassinations against Turkish diplomats overseas by Armenian militants in the 1970s and 1980s.

The US resolution was the first time either congressional chamber had officially recognised the Armenian genocide.

Previously legislators did not use the word genocide to avoid antagonising its Nato ally.

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 avoided using the word, despite having promised to do so.

In recent years, Armenian-American celebrity Kim Kardashian West has highlighted the issue. After the vote she commented on the “incredible numbers” in favour of the resolution.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called it 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 said the vote, along with the sanctions bill, was being used to punish Turkey for its Syria operation rather than a genuine desire to commemorate the massacres.

“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.

“It is perceived as a punishment and will therefore provoke further anti-western, anti-American sentiments in Turkish society and may even render Armenian minorities living in Turkey vulnerable in the face of a possible nationalist backlash.”

She said it removed a “Damocles’ sword” above Turkey, as the issue had previously been used as leverage over Ankara.