Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized US President Joe Biden for again characterizing the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces as a “genocide,” challenging the US leader to “learn the history” concerning the Armenians, local media reported on Monday.
In a televised address following a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Erdoğan said Biden’s statement was “based on lies and false information,” adding that such statements were “provoking enmity” between the Turkish and Armenian peoples and that Armenians would suffer the most from the “hypocrisy.”
“Statements relating to the Armenian claims … are of no import to us. This is how we see the statement of the US president, and we don’t even find it worth dwelling on because it is all based on lies and false information. … First, Mr. Biden needs to learn about the Armenians,” Erdoğan said.
The Turkish president’s remarks come a day after Biden used the occasion of Armenian Remembrance Day to describe mass atrocities by the Ottomans as genocide, repeating his controversial description from a year ago when he ended decades of American equivocation.
“On April 24, 1915, Ottoman authorities arrested Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. Thus began the Armenian genocide — one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century,” the president said in a statement.
The categorization infuriates Turkey, which refuses to recognize the 1915-16 killings of more than a million Armenians as genocide.
As many as 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed from 1915 to 1917 during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, which suspected the Christian minority of conspiring with adversary Russia in World War I.
Armenian populations were rounded up and deported into the desert of Syria on death marches in which many were shot, poisoned or fell victim to disease, according to accounts at the time by foreign diplomats.
Turkey, which emerged as a secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, acknowledges that 300,000 Armenians may have died but strongly rejects that it was genocide.
Biden infuriated Ankara one year ago when he became the first sitting US president to describe the massacres as genocide. He had informed Erdoğan of the decision the day before, in a move seeking to limit fallout from the NATO ally.
Erdoğan in the aftermath denounced the genocide recognition as “groundless” and “destructive” and warned Washington could lose a friend in a key region.
The strained relations gradually steadied, with the two leaders meeting last June and Erdoğan hailing a “new era” of constructive ties with Washington.
They spoke last month about Turkey’s mediation in the Russia-Ukraine war.