Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has attracted criticism for contradicting his own remarks about recognition of the mass killings of the Armenians in the final days of the Ottoman Empire as genocide by the US administration.
On April 24 President Joe Biden became the first US leader to use the term genocide in an annual message on the anniversary of the 1915-1916 massacres. The US move to recognize the killings as genocide attracted criticism from the Turkish government, which accused the US of trying to rewrite history.
Before his departure for Brussels where he attended a NATO meeting on Monday, Erdoğan said at a news conference at İstanbul Airport on Sunday that he would raise the US recognition of the Armenian genocide during his meeting with Biden in Brussels.
The pro-government Sabah daily carried Erdoğan’s remarks on its front page on Monday, quoting him as saying: “The April 24 decision [of the US] has unfortunately been a very negative development. We would not have expected such a move. This issue has greatly saddened us. I don’t find it right not to bring this issue up [in the meeting with Biden].”
When Erdoğan was asked by a reporter at a news conference following his meeting with Biden on Monday whether the US recognition of the Armenian genocide was raised during their meeting, Erdoğan replied, “Thank God, it was not brought up.”
Erdoğan’s reply contradicted his earlier statement when he said he would talk to Biden about the issue.
Exiled Turkish journalist Can Dündar tweeted Sabah’s front page on Monday and Erdoğan’s later remarks at the news conference in Brussels when he thanked God because the Armenian genocide issue did not come up during his meeting with Biden.
“Thank God, it was a lie,” quipped Dündar.
Pro-government newspapers including Sabah did not report on Erdoğan’s remarks at the news conference in their Tuesday editions but published many photos of the Turkish president with world leaders during the NATO meeting.
The Armenians, supported by many historians and scholars, say 1.5 million of their people died in a genocide committed under the Ottoman Empire, which was fighting tsarist Russia in areas that include present-day Armenia.
Turkey accepts that both Armenians and Turks died in huge numbers during World War I but vehemently denies there was a deliberate policy of genocide — a term that had not been legally defined at the time.
Turkey puts the Armenian death toll at around 300,000.