The Turkish parliament on Tuesday adopted a motion condemning US President Joe Biden’s recognition of the massacre of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as genocide, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The motion, which was published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday, called on Biden to retract his statement and support efforts by the Turkish and Armenian peoples to live in peace and safety.
It also declared President Biden’s statement “null and void.”
In addition to the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) and its far-right ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and right-wing İYİ (Good) Party voted in favor of the motion, while the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was against it.
On April 24 President Joe Biden became the first US leader to use the term genocide in an annual message on the anniversary of the 1915-1916 massacres.
“We remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” President Biden said in a statement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday he was “highly saddened” by Biden’s move, adding that Turkey would have to take necessary steps.
He emphasized that historians should be studying the events and that the term “genocide” is too sensitive to be left to presidents or parliaments. He said the designation came into effect after 1948 and must be based on evidence and court decisions.
Turkey’s opposition leaders, however, criticized President Erdoğan over his reaction to Biden’s remarks. They said Erdoğan’s reaction was an understatement, questioning the president’s motives for what they thought was the downplaying of the incident.
“We are faced with a person who is incapable of defending his own country’s interests. ‘Would something happen to me if I spoke a little more harshly?’ [he thinks],” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said during a parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday.
The Armenians — supported by historians and scholars — say 1.5 million of their people died in a genocide committed under the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
Although Turkey accepts that both Armenians and Turks died in huge numbers as Ottoman forces fought czarist Russia, the country vehemently denies a deliberate policy of genocide and notes that the term had not been legally defined at the time.