WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama yesterday marked the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces, calling it one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, but avoiding any mention of “genocide.”
Turkey objects to the killings being labelled “genocide” and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Obama’s remarks took into consideration “the sensitivities” of his country. But a US-based Armenian group said it was disappointed in Obama.
“On this solemn day of remembrance, we pause to recall that 95 years ago one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century began. In that dark moment of history, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.
His remarks came as Armenia marked the 95th anniversary of the World War One killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, and against a backdrop of failed peace with Turkey and fresh saber rattling with enemy Azerbaijan.
A deal between Turkey and Armenia to establish diplomatic ties and reopen their border collapsed on Thursday when Armenia suspended ratification over Turkish demands that it first make peace with Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Obama used the term genocide as a presidential candidate, but not since becoming president in January 2009.
He said the 1915 massacre must not be repeated, but carefully avoided getting entangled in the debate over whether Turkey was responsible for genocide against the Armenians.