April 25, 2010, Turk of America - ImageTurkey has denounced the U.S. president’s annual statement marking the deaths of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as “one-sided,” criticizing Barack Obama for issuing the remarks on Turkey’s National Sovereignty day.
"Obama's statement is one-sided and it reads history from a single perspective,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Sunday.
“I want to remind everyone that the statement was made on the same day that our nation was marking National Sovereignty day and the 91st anniversary of the national Parliament; it would be better if this had been noticed by the American side," the minister Sunday said in northwestern province of Çanakkale, where he was participating in a joint press conference with his New Zealand counterpart, Murray McCully, to mark the 96th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I.
The U.S. president traditionally releases a statement on April 24, “Armenian Remembrance Day,” but Obama chose to issue his statement this year on April 23, which is marked as National Sovereignty and Children’s Day in Turkey. “It is saddening that each year this issue pops up and casts a shadow on our relations with the United States. Lots of pain was endured in the Ottoman territories during the break-up of the empire. We would have expected Mr. Obama to also remember the sufferings of Turks back in those days,” Davutoğlu said.
Obama on Saturday called the incidents of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire a "great disaster" or "Meds Yeghern" in Armenian – but he did not term them a “genocide,” greatly angering many American-Armenians.
Davutoğlu said Turkey would continue efforts to ensure that its version of the 1915 events would be fairly remembered. “[Obama’s] statement is unfit historically and it is biased."
"We find these remarks that distort historical truths very problematic and we regret them,” the ministry said in a statement released earlier Sunday before Davutoğlu spoke, adding that the president’s statement reflected concerns about U.S. domestic policy.
“Our expectation from the United States is to facilitate a normalization process between Turkey and Armenia, not hamper it."
Obama receives Armenian anger as well
U.S. Armenians also vented their frustration at Obama’s failure to use the term “genocide” in his remarks, with the Armenian National Committee of America, or ANCA, the largest and most influential U.S. Armenian group, accusing Obama of "once again betraying his promise to recognize the Armenian genocide."
"President Barack Obama again betrayed his pledge to properly condemn and commemorate this crime against humanity," ANCA said in a statement. "Despite his repeated, detailed, and unambiguous pledges to recognize the Armenian genocide [during the presidential election campaign in 2008], the president offered only euphemisms and evasive terminology to describe the murder of over 1.5 million men women and children.”
In an annual message Obama urged "full" acknowledgment of the "horrific events." "We solemnly remember the horrific events that took place 96 years ago, resulting in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. In 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire," Obama said.
"As we commemorate the ‘Meds Yeghern’ and pay tribute to the memories of those who perished, we also recommit ourselves to ensuring that devastating events like these are never repeated. This is a contemporary cause that thousands of Armenian-Americans have made their own," he said.
"Our hearts and prayers are with Armenians everywhere as we recall the horrors of the Meds Yeghern, honor the memories of those who suffered, and pledge our friendship and deep respect for the people of Armenia," the U.S. president said.
Obama also praised "the courageous steps taken by individuals in Armenia and Turkey to foster a dialogue that acknowledges their common history."
"President Obama's disgraceful capitulation to Turkey’s threats, his complicity in Turkey's denials, and his administration’s active opposition to congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide represent the very opposite of the principled and honest change he promised to bring to our country’s response to this crime,” ANCA chairman Ken Hachikian said.
The Armenian Assembly of America, or AAA, another major U.S. Armenian group, gave a historical account of earlier U.S. presidential statements on the matter, without directly confronting Obama. "Other U.S. presidents have used dictionary definitions of genocide or incorporated the term Armenian genocide by reference, but have yielded to Turkish threats," AAA said.
Hundreds of Armenian-American activists flooded the streets of Culver City, near Los Angeles, California, on Thursday to protest Obama’s "failure to honor his pledge to recognize the Armenian genocide."
U.S. Armenians traditionally urge U.S. presidents and the Congress to officially recognize World War I-era deaths of their kinsmen in the Ottoman Empire as "genocide." But their efforts so far have not been successful. Turkey has warned that any formal U.S. genocide recognition will worsen bilateral ties with the U.S. in a major and lasting way.
TCA RESPONSE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA'S STATEMENT
In response to the President's annual statement on Armenian Remembrance Day, G. Lincoln McCurdy, President of the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), issued the following remarks:
"Yesterday, President Barack Obama issued his annual presidential statement marking Armenian Remembrance Day. Turkish Americans across the country share the grief of all who lost their family members during dreadful events in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
"We note however that the President's views of this history and his statements perpetuate a missionary mentality which elevates Armenian suffering while ignoring the massive suffering caused by the ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Muslims from the Balkans, Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, five million Ottoman Muslims were killed and five and a half million were expelled from lands on which they had lived for centuries. TCA believes that without equal recognition of the tragedies inflicted on the Ottoman Muslim population during those years, reconciliation between Turks and Armenians will continue to elude us.
"The President argued that a 'full, frank, and just acknowledgment of the facts is in all our interests.' We fully agree with him. Yet, reconciliation can only come from the full truth, not from half-truths derived from a century of propaganda, permeated with racism and religious intolerance against Ottoman Muslims. We are concerned that by making such definitive but uninformed statements, President undermines his own policy to support the establishment of an international commission of scholars and experts on the issue, a proposal that has been advanced by Turkey since 2005, strongly supported by the Turkish American community, but vehemently opposed by the Armenian Diaspora. We urge President Obama to voice his unequivocal support for the formation of such a commission, which is the fairest, if not only, method for assessing the truth, which will pave the way for reconciliation between Armenians and Turks.
"TCA would once again like to extend its hand of friendship to the Armenian Diaspora in the US. Over the years, we have implemented programs that we believe are helping to heal the divide between Turkish Americans and Armenian Americans. This includes our scholarship program for Armenian Americans to study abroad in Turkey and efforts to recognize the many contributions that Armenians have made and continue to make to Turkey's cultural heritage. It is our hope that by fostering dialogue between our communities, we can play a positive role in rebuilding a mutual understanding between the two nations."