The foreign minister of Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador in Ankara on Saturday to protest President Joe Biden’s decision to designate as genocide the killing and deportation of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire.
U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield met with Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal late on Saturday to receive Ankara’s condemnation.
“The statement does not have legal ground in terms of international law and has hurt the Turkish people, opening a wound that’s hard to fix in our relations,” the Turkish foreign ministry said.
Earlier on Saturday, Biden followed through on a campaign promise and recognized the killing of an estimated 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians beginning in 1915 as genocide.
“We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated,” Biden said in a statement, which did not include any references to Turkey.
Biden released the statement on April 24, the anniversary of the day in 1915 when Ottoman authorities Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople.
Biden’s statement prompted statements of condemnation from Turkish officials. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not yet addressed the issue.
Turkey rejects the use of the word “genocide,” saying both Turks and Armenians were killed in the World War I-era fighting and has called for a joint history commission to investigate. American presidents have avoided using the word “genocide” for years.
The announcement comes as Turkish-American relations suffer from a host of issues. The United States has sanctioned Turkish defense officials and kicked Turkey out of a fighter jet program after the NATO member bought the Russian-made S400 defense system.
Ankara is frustrated by Washington’s support of Syrian Kurdish fighters linked to an insurgency that Turkey has fought for decades. Turkey has also demanded the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric accused of orchestrating a bloody coup attempt against Erdogan’s government in 2016. Gulen lives in the United States and denies involvement.
Erdogan and Biden spoke on the phone Friday for the first time since the 2020 election.
Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman to the president, wrote on Twitter Sunday: “President Erdogan opened Turkey’s national archives & called for a joint historical committee to investigate the events of 1915, to which Armenia never responded. It is a pity @POTUS has ignored, among others, this simple fact and taken an irresponsible and unprincipled position.”