Turkey is angry at Biden, but it has not bitten yet

US President Biden barely dropped the group’s speech on Saturday when Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted his anger. He wrote that Turkey rejects Biden’s recognition of the events of 1915 as genocide. “His statement is based solely on populism.” Javushoglu may have prepared his tweet. In a phone call to Ankara on Friday – the first call since taking office – Biden has already announced his intention.

The fact that the US president chose April 24 – the day of the official celebration of the massacre of some 800,000 to 1.5 million Armenians – over his statement, will not surprise the Turkish minister either. Biden said: “Every year on this day, we celebrate the memory of those who died in the Ottoman era during the Armenian Genocide and pledge to prevent such atrocities from happening again.” This makes him the first American president to describe the events of 1915 in an official statement as “genocide.”

Turkish President Erdogan responded that determining what happened in the past is not up to other countries, but rather to historians. “Nobody benefits if the debate is politicized by third parties and becomes a tool for interference in our country,” he replied. But he also wants to help historians on their way. According to the Turkish reading, despite the deaths of many Armenians who lived in the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, there was no doubt about the systematic extermination of a population.

Armenians and American sympathizers commemorated the mass murder of 1915 Armenians in Hollywood on Saturday.AFP photo

The Turkish government receives support from the opposition

In a rare moment of consensus, the Turkish government received support from the Republican People’s Party, the largest opposition party. According to a spokesman, Washington is making a “big mistake.” The support he received from Azerbaijan was less expected. President Ilham Aliyev immediately called his Turkish colleague on Saturday after the US statement and assured Erdogan that Baku will always support Ankara. He rejected Biden’s statement, calling it “unacceptable.” The two leaders are also said to have discussed potential joint steps.

For now, Erdogan doesn’t seem to want to take very big steps. However, he summoned the US ambassador. But he did so in 2019, when the House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing the mass killing as genocide.

Where in the world the mass killing of Armenians is considered genocide, the Turkish president balancing his response. After all, the United States is by no means the only country dealing with this issue. Especially in 2015, exactly a century after the genocide began, debate erupted in different parts of the world. For example, the Pope then spoke of “genocide” and then German President Joachim Gauck did so at a memorial service at that time.

Parliaments are more likely to embrace recognition than governments

Parliaments are usually quicker to recognize the Armenian Genocide than governments that fear damage to their diplomatic and economic ties with Turkey. This is also the case in the Netherlands, for example, where the House of Representatives recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2018, but the Cabinet still uses the wording of the “ Armenian Genocide Question ”.

The Turkish government usually maintains its anger against countries where not only parliament, but the government also talks about genocide. For example, when French President Macron decided that April 24 will be a national day to commemorate the Armenian Genocide two years ago, he met with the large Armenian diaspora in his country, which ranges between 400,000 and 600,000 people.

Even when the German Bundestag recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2016, Ankara responded forcefully, hoping to dissuade the government from following its parliament’s example. German parliamentarians are no longer welcome at Incirlik Air Force Base, where German soldiers are stationed. Then Berlin informed Ankara that the decision passed in the Bundestag was not binding.

Turkey is all about the bark

The fact that Turkey is now sticking to “barking” at the moment, even though it is now the head of one of the most powerful countries to speak of “genocide”, may have something to do with the country’s worsening economic situation. In addition, relations between the two allies have already plummeted to an all-time low in recent years, in part due to disagreements over Syria and the Turkish regime for the Russian missile defense system.

Biden also tried not to spray the extra salt on the wound. The American statement makes clear that deportations, mass killings, and death marches took place in the Ottoman Empire. “We do not blame this but to make sure that what happened will not be repeated,” he added.

Armenia’s response

“It is an important day for all Armenians,” Armenian Prime Minister Nicole Basinyan said on Twitter on Saturday after Biden’s statement. He wrote to the President of the United States to say that Armenians around the world welcomed his “invaluable statement to the descendants of the victims of the Armenian Genocide.” This was also Pasgenian’s last action before submitting his resignation. The day after the ceremony, Pasgenian, as previously announced, resigned. His resignation should allow for early elections scheduled for June 20. Until then, he will remain as interim prime minister. The poll is being conducted due to criticism of Pashinyan’s handling of the conflict in the disputed Nagorno Karabakh region.

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