Turkey would reply in the coming months to US President Joe Biden’s declaration about the recognition of Armenian genocide that massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide, according to Turkey’s presidential spokesman.
Biden shattered decades of carefully calibrated White House remarks about the 1915 killings on Saturday, delighting Armenians and their diaspora while further straining relations between Washington and Ankara, both NATO members.
Ibrahim Kalin, Spokesman and Advisor to President Rajab Tayyab Erdogan
In an interview with Reuters, Ibrahim Kalin, President Tayyab Erdogan’s spokesman and advisor, said: “There will be a reaction of various kinds and degrees in the coming days and months.”
It’s that time of the year again, when Turkey starts crying about the recognition of a genocide — they committed.https://t.co/nm0yCodUiT
— Gev Iskajyan (@geviskajyan) April 21, 2021
Kalin did not say if Ankara would, among other things, limit US access to the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey, which has been used to help the international coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Erdogan will discuss the issue after a cabinet meeting on Monday, according to Kalin, after other Turkish officials swiftly condemned Biden’s comment on Saturday.
“We will continue to react to this very unfortunate, unjust comment at a time and place that we deem appropriate,” he said. Turkey acknowledges that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in battles with Ottoman forces during World War One, but denies that the massacres were carried out in a systematic and genocide-like manner.
Relationships that are strained
Measures remembering the US congress has languished the recognition of Armenian genocide for decades, and most US presidents have refrained from referring to it as such due to fears about straining ties with Turkey.
However, those relations are still strained. Ankara is enraged that the US has armed Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria and has not extradited a U.S.-based cleric Turkey accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt, and Washington has put sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition of Russian air defenses.
Kalin believes that resolving such conflicts will now be much more difficult. “This very unfortunate comment would cast a spell on everything we do with the United States,” he said.
The Turkish parliament is scheduled to issue a statement this week
Turkey’s parliament is due to issue a statement this week, according to Kalin. According to analysts, lawmakers could retaliate rhetorically against Biden by classifying European settlers’ treatment of Native Americans as genocide.
According to Ozgur Unlu hisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund research group in Ankara, in addition to restricting access to Incirlik, Turkey has the choice of reducing military cooperation with the US in northern Syria and Iraq or scaling back diplomatic efforts to support Afghan peace talks.
In fact, Erdogan’s options are small, as he is already dealing with one of the highest rates of regular COVID-19 cases in the world, and the lira currency has recently fallen to near-all-time lows against the dollar.
“This is a trying time for Turkey, and it is not the time for Turkey to pick a fight with someone, let alone the US,” Unluhisarcikli said.
According to Kalin, US officials informed Turkey that the declaration would not serve as a legal framework for future reparation claims.
What did Erdogan say during Biden’s first phone call on Friday?
Nonetheless, Erdogan told Biden on Friday, during their first phone call since Biden took office three months ago, that going ahead with his comment would be a “colossal mistake.”
“To reduce all of that to a single word and attempt to implicate Turks, our Ottoman ancestors, in genocidal actions is clearly outrageous,” Kalin said.
“It is not backed up by historical evidence.”