Turkey vows ‘political response’ to Armenian Genocide recognition, summons U.S. envoy

Turkey will never accept an accusation of genocide, Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Saturday, a day after U.S. President Joe Biden recognised as genocide the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire over a century ago.

“Of course there will be apolitical response to this,” Kalın said, referring to Biden’s use of the word genocide in his Armenian Memorial Day statement to refer to the mass deportation and death of some 1.5 million Armenians and smaller numbers of other Christian peoples in Ottoman-era Anatolia between 1915 and 1923.

“We can’t be held responsible for a crime we didn’t commit,” Kalın said speaking to Al Jazeera English, adding the term genocide was coined in 1948 and couldn’t be attributed to earlier events.

“Ottoman Turks didn’t wake up one day and decide to slaughter Armenians,” Kalın said, citing the official Turkish line that recognises there were deaths, but maintains they occurred due to wartime conditions under World War I, at a much lower rate than 1.5 million people. Turkey also says Armenian militias in eastern Anatolia had joined Russian troops to secure an independent homeland as the Ottoman Empire was dissolving.

April 24 marked the 106th anniversary of the order to expel Armenian “intellectuals and community leaders from Istanbul, which the global Armenian community considers to mark the beginning of the genocide.

In his message, Biden had taken care to refer to the Ottoman capital as “Constantinople” and repeatedly used “Ottoman” to refer to the governing body at the time, avoiding the words Turk or Turkey.

Kalın said Biden had “politicised historic events for political gain. That is unfortunate.”

Following Biden’s statement, on Saturday evening the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador to Ankara David Satterfield.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ambassador Sedat Önal received Satterfield, pro-government daily Sabah reported, and expressed Turkey’s “strong reaction to the statement in question”, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Önal told Satterfield that Turkey “wholly rejects” the statement, which “lacks any backing” and is “null and void regarding international law, and harmed the Turkish people deeply, opening a wound that is hard to mend regarding our relations”.

(All times local Turkish time, GMT+3)

17:35 - U.S. recognition of genocide an ‘open war,’ says Erdoğan advisor

U.S. President Joe Biden’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide is an open proclamation of war, said Ayhan Oğan, advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“The West has never been Turkey’s friend. The United States has never been our ally,” Oğan said on Twitter. “There is nothing to be surprised or concerned about. It is better to have an open war instead of an implicit one.”

Oğan also said the Turkish state, under the leadership of Erdoğan, would “overcome all”.

17:00 - Turks protest Biden’s genocide recognition in Washington

Turks living in Washington, D.C. gathered in front of the Turkish embassy building to protest U.S. President Joe Biden’s use of the word “genocide”.

Turks and Azeris gathered to sing religious and nationalist songs and anthems, chant slogans and read a press statement, state-run Anadolu agency reported on Sunday.

“Neither Turkey nor Turkish Americans deny that massacres of Armenians occurred in the Ottoman Empire during World War I,” The Turkish-American National Steering Committee said in a tweet. “We mourn these losses while remaining in agreement with the views of the United Nations and European Court of Human Rights that, though terrible, these were not a case of genocide.”

A small counter protest group, comprising mostly Armenians, gathered across the road, Anadolu said.

16:30 - Turkish business world joins condemnation of Biden

Turkish business leaders on Saturday condemned U.S. President Joe Biden's remarks on the events of 1915.

Biden using the word “genocide” to refer to the events that resulted in the death of some 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians had “distorted history” and would “negatively impact Turkish-American relations,” tweeted Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, chairman of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB).

“The decision by the U.S. administration doesn’t turn the slander of Armenian genocide into reality,” Hisarcıklıoğlu said.

Nail Olpak, head of Turkey's Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK), also criticised Biden's statement, saying that Turkey had never in its long history committed such a crime against humanity.

“We strongly oppose and reject this unrealistic, politically based, and baseless statement, which is also not valid from the point of view of international law,” Olpak said.

16:20 – Faulty foreign policy led to genocide declaration - Turkish ex-ambassador to U.S.

Turkey’s former ambassador to Washington Namık Tan said U.S. President Joe Biden’s recognition as genocide of the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire over a century ago was sparked by Turkey’s long-time faulty foreign policy.

Said policy has “left Turkey practically all alone in the world”, Tan said on Twitter.