Recep Tayyip Erdogan said troubled relations between Turkey and the United States reached a new low after Joe Biden officially admitted that Armenians suffered genocide a century ago in land now in Turkey .
But Erdogan refrained from announcing retaliatory measures and instead reiterated his desire to work with Turkey’s ally in NATO, signaling his fears that escalating tensions could harm its $ 717 billion economy. of dollars.
Biden Saturday describes the murder of no less than 1.5 million Armenians beginning in 1915 as genocide, deviating from the carefully crafted statements of previous administrations released every Armenian Genocide remembrance day that avoided the term in accordance with Turkey’s wishes.
In his first public remarks since Biden’s statement, Erdogan called on the US president to “immediately reverse this bad decision” and accused him of giving in to political pressure from “radical Armenian circles and anti-Turkish groups”.
“This in no way diminishes the devastating effects it will have on our bilateral relations,” he said in a televised speech. Already “damaged” ties with the United States “have now fallen well below even that level with the April 24 announcement, which added insult to injury.”
Ankara and Washington disagree on a host of issues, including Erdogan’s checkered human rights record, Russian missile purchase designed to shoot down NATO jets, and a U.S. federal indictment of a Turkish state bank for allegedly helping Iran avoid sanctions.
Concerns over Turkey’s foreign and economic policies have deterred investors in recent years, and Erdogan had said he hoped to turn the page with the US and the EU to improve trade ties and protect the fragile economy.
Erdogan confirmed that he and Biden would meet in June to discuss their differences, but warned that failure to resolve them could prompt Turkey to take its own steps.
“We must put aside the problems that plague our bilateral relations and consider the steps that can be taken together to move forward. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to implement the practices that are demanded of the new level to which our relations have receded, ”he said.
He did not say what steps Turkey might take. The two countries share a defense pact which allows the American military to access Turkish bases. Previously, Erdogan had withdrawn ambassadors or canceled trade deals when other governments recognized the genocide.
Erdogan hinted that retaliation could be directed against the neighboring Republic of Armenia and that he would provide details in the coming days on joint measures Turkey and Azerbaijan could take. Turkey supplied arms to Azerbaijan in his war against Armenia last year, helping it to reclaim most of the territory lost by Baku in the early 1990s.
The Turkish leader said Biden’s statement jeopardized the possibility of reconciliation with Armenia, with which Turkey cut diplomatic ties and sealed its borders three decades ago to show support for Azerbaijan.
Biden pledged during his presidential campaign to recognize the genocide, as part of a foreign policy he declared prioritize human rights. U.S. administration officials said the recognition was meant to honor the victims rather than “assign blame,” and that Biden informed Erdogan a day before his statement in the leaders’ first phone call since the U.S. election.
The United States joins some 30 countries and most historians in concluding that the massacres and deportations of Armenians from 1915 amounted to genocide. The Ottoman Empire’s war campaigns to cleanse areas of Christian populations laid the foundation for the much less diverse Turkish republic established in 1923 after the empire collapsed.
Erdogan reiterated Turkish claims that people had been “temporarily relocated” to prevent collusion with foreign forces during the war and that “Armenian gangs” had killed Muslim civilians. The absence of a ruling from the International Court prevented the Armenian deaths from being classified as genocide, he said, repeating his call “to leave the debate with historians”.
Today, less than 60,000 ethnic Armenians remain in Turkey and are sporadically the targets of hate crimes, such as vandalism of churches. Erdogan warned that they could now bear the brunt of the dispute.
“These debates do not offer the slightest advantage to the Armenian community, on the contrary, they can become a new source of unrest,” he said.