U.S. President Joe Biden’s declaration that the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide is “unfair and unfortunate” and Turkey will respond in various ways over the coming months, Turkey’s presidential spokesman said on Sunday (April 25).
Biden broke with decades of carefully calibrated White House comments over the killings on Saturday (April 24), delighting Armenia and its diaspora in the United States but further straining ties between Washington and Ankara, two NATO allies.
“There will be a response to this,” Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman and adviser told Reuters in an interview at an Ottoman palace in Istanbul.
Kalin did not specify whether Ankara would restrict U.S. access to the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, which has been used to support the international coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, or other measures it may take.
Turkish officials condemned Biden’s statement on Saturday, and Kalin said Erdogan would address the issue after a cabinet meeting on Monday (April 26).
“At a time and place that we consider to be appropriate, we will continue to respond to this very unfortunate unfair statement,” he said.
For decades, measures recognizing the Armenian genocide stalled in the U.S. Congress and most U.S. presidents have refrained from calling it that, stymied by concerns about relations with Turkey and intense lobbying by Ankara.
But those relations are already troubled. Washington has put sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of Russian air defences, while Ankara has been angered that the United States has armed Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria and not extradited a U.S.-based cleric Turkey accused of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
Navigating those disputes will now be even harder, Kalin said. “Everything that we conduct with the United States will be under the spell of this very unfortunate statement,” he said.
Kalin said U.S. officials had told Turkey that the declaration would not give legal justification to underpin potential claims of reparations for the killings.
Nevertheless, Erdogan warned Biden when the two leaders spoke by phone on Friday (April 23), their first conversation since Biden took office three months ago, that it would be a “colossal mistake” to go ahead with his statement.
(Production: Bulent Usta)