Turkey's Erdogan urges Biden to reverse 'wrong step' of Armenian genocide declaration

Mr Biden's historic declaration on Saturday infuriated Nato ally Turkey

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged US President Joe Biden to swiftly reverse his declaration that the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide.

Mr Erdogan said the designation was upsetting and diminished ties between the Nato allies.

Mr Biden's historic declaration on Saturday infuriated Ankara, which said it opened a "deep wound" in relations already strained over other issues.

In his first comments since the statement, Mr Erdogan said "the wrong step" would hinder relations, that the US should "look in the mirror", and that Turkey sought "good neighbourly" ties with Armenia.

"The US president has made baseless, unjust and untrue remarks about the sad events that took place in our geography over a century ago," He said after a Cabinet meeting.

Mr Erdogan again called for Turkish and Armenian historians to form a joint commission to investigate the events.

"I hope the US president will turn back from this wrong step as soon as possible," he said.

Mr Erdogan condemned Washington for failing to find a solution to the decades-old conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh, where the US, Russia and France were mediators.

He said the US had stood by as massacres unfolded.

"If you say genocide, then you need to look at yourselves in the mirror and make an evaluation," he said.

"The Native Americans, I don't even need to mention them, what happened is clear.

"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 lands in the Nagorno-Karabakh region that were part of Azerbaijan but held by Armenian separatists.

Baku criticised Mr Biden's genocide statement, while Yerevan praised it.

Mr Erdogan also contested the death toll from 1915, saying about 150,000 people were killed, as opposed to the 1.5 million claimed by Armenia.

He said the toll was "exaggerated by adding a zero to the end".

Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during the First World War.

But it contests the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated or constituted a genocide.

Ankara and Washington have been struggling to repair ties, strained in recent years over several issues, including Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems that resulted in US sanctions. ​

On Sunday, Mr Erdogan's spokesman and adviser Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters the statement was "simply outrageous" and Turkey would respond over the coming months.

Turkey's Parliamentary Speaker Mustafa Sentop said politicians would respond to Mr Biden's remarks on Wednesday.

Turkey's government and most of the opposition have shown a rare unity in their rejection of the declaration.

Mr Erdogan said he expected to "open the door for a new period" in relations and to discuss all disputes with Mr Biden at a Nato summit in June.

But he warned that ties would deteriorate further unless the allies could keep issues apart.

"We now need to put aside our disagreements and look at what steps we can take from now on," Mr Erdogan said.

"Otherwise we will have no choice but to do what is required by the level our ties have fallen to on April 24."