Turkish President Erdogan Calls for History Commission After Biden 'Genocide' Statement

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the opening of the country's national archives and for a "joint historical committee" to investigate whether U.S. President Joe Biden's Saturday "genocide" remarks have documented validity.

Biden recognized the mass killings that began in 1915 and resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians. He declared "we affirm the history," but noted the move was not intended to "cast blame" on modern Turkey, "but to ensure that what happened is never repeated."

Armenian leaders commended Biden's remarks, but Turkey put out statements blasting it as factually inaccurate and disputing the historical evidence of said "genocide."

"President Erdogan opened Turkey's national archives & called for a joint historical committee to investigate the events of 1915, to which Armenia never responded. It is a pity @POTUS has ignored, among others, this simple fact and taken an irresponsible and unprincipled position," tweeted Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan's primary spokesperson, Sunday.

"We reject and denounce in the strongest terms the statement of the president of the U.S. regarding the events of 1915 made under the pressure of radical Armenian circles and anti-Turkey groups," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Turkey has long held that both Turks and Armenians were killed in the World War I-era fighting in which they outright reject the term "genocide"; Armenians call the early 20th-century events Meds Yeghern, or "the Great Crime." Turkish government officials on Saturday called for an immediate and thorough investigation of historical records in order to determine if the events can truly be labeled "genocide" by Armenian or Western leaders.

Turkish Foreign Minister Sedat Onal met with U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, to discuss Ankara's condemnation of Biden's remarks. "The statement does not have legal ground in terms of international law and has hurt the Turkish people, opening a wound that's hard to fix in our relations," Onal said.

Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan praised Biden's remarks as a "powerful step" Saturday, as Armenians marked the anniversary of the 1915 roundup of 250 intellectuals viewed as the first act in what became eight years of systematic murders.

Biden's announcement and the pushback from Ankara comes amid a low point in American and Turkish political relations. Turkish government officials have for years been angered at Washington's support of Syrian Kurdish fighters that Turkey has long fought back against.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Erdogan and Biden spoke on the phone Friday for the first time since the latter was elected last November.

Newsweek reached out to Turkish envoy officials in Washington Sunday morning for additional remarks.

Erdogan
President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to give a press conference after the cabinet meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey, on September 21, 2020. Adem ALTAN / AFP/Getty

Updated 04/28/2021, 10:01 a.m. ET: This story was updated to remove a typographical error.