Turkey’s Erdoğan says U.S. Armenian genocide recognition an insult

(Updates with Erdoğan’s comments on Washington visit in 11th and 12th paragraphs.)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday condemned the U.S. House of Representatives’ recognition of the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire a century ago as genocide, calling it an insult to his nation.

The House vote on Tuesday coincided with the anniversary of the 1923 foundation of the Republic of Turkey on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire and comes amid anger in Congress over the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria that President Donald Trump facilitated by withdrawing U.S. troops from the area and ending support for Syrian Kurdish forces that fought Islamic State.

Erdoğan said a group of U.S. politicians who had been working for 20 years to push for the recognition of the genocide had exploited the negative mood against Turkey.

“This step taken has no value. And we do not recognise it,” said the Turkish president. “We see such an accusation as the greatest insult made to our nation.”

Erdoğan said the Turkish parliament was working on a statement against the U.S. House of Representatives.

“A country whose history is filled with stains of genocide, slavery and exploitation has no right to say something or to lecture Turkey,” Erdoğan said. 

The House of Representatives also passed a bill on Tuesday calling for sanctions on Turkey over its military operation in Syria, which will now go to the Senate for approval.

“We strongly reject it,” Erdoğan said, adding that the bill targeted himself, his family and ministers.

Erdoğan said the bill was based on accusations made by the Gülen movement, a secretive Islamist group formerly allied to the ruling party that Turkish leaders accuse of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016. The president said the United States had failed to review Turkey’s request to extradite the movement’s U.S.-based leader, Fethullah Gülen. 

“Either you will hand him over to us, or from now on you should not expect us to extradite a criminal in relation to the agreement for bilateral extradition of criminals,” he said. 

Erdoğan also indicated that the bill could have an impact on his plans to visit Washington on Nov. 13.

“I have not decided yet, there are still question marks,” he said when reporters asked whether he would cancel his visit to the United States.