ANKARA (Combined Sources)–U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday stood by his earlier statemen’s recognizing the Armenian Genocide and said they should not hamper the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
“My views are on the record and I have not changed views,” said President Barack Obama about the Armenian Genocide at a joint press conference Monday with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.
Making his first official visit to Ankara, Obama also said that he is “very encouraged” by Armenia’s and Turkey’s ongoing efforts to normalize bilateral ties.
The president stopped short of using the word “Genocide” but on several occasions, most notably in his speech at the Turkish parliament, he stressed that his views had not changed.
The Armenian National Committee of America said Obama missed an opportunity to honor his campaign pledge of recognizing the Genocide.
"In his remarks today in Ankara, President Obama missed a valuable opportunity to honor his public pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian on Monday.
“The President’s willingness to raise his commitment to recognizing the Armenian Genocide, even indirectly, in his remarks before the Turkish Parliament represents a step in the right direction, but far short of the clear promise he made as a candidate that he would, as President, fully and unequivocally recognize this crime against humanity. We expect that the President will, during Genocide Prevention Month this April, stand by his word, signaling to the world that America’s commitment to the cause of genocide prevention will never again be held hostage to pressures from a foreign government," he added.
"I want to focus not on my views right now, but on the views of the Turkish and Armenian people. If they can move forward and deal with a difficult and tragic history, then I think the entire world should encourage that," he said.
Obama made the same point when he addressed the Turkish parliament later in the day. “I know there are strong views in this chamber about the terrible events of 1915, and while there has been a good deal of commentary about my views, it is really about how the Turkish and Armenian people deal with the past,” he said. “And the best way forward for the Turkish and Armenian people is a process that works through the past in a way that is honest, open, and constructive,” said Obama.
During his election campaign Obama pledged to properly recognize the Genocide.
"The Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence," he said in a January 2008 statement on his campaign website. "America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that president."
“What I have been very encouraged by is that … there is a series of negotiations, a process between Armenia and Turkey to resolve a whole host of long-standing issues, including this one," Obama told journalists. "I’m not interested in the United States in any way tilting these negotiations."
Standing alongside Obama, Gul denounced Armenian efforts at genocide recognition and renewed Ankara’s calls for a joint Turkish-Armenian academic study of the 1915 events. "It is not a political but an historic issue," he said. "That’s why we should let historians discuss the matter."
For his part, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated on Friday that his nation will never admit to the “so-called genocide.” “For Turkey, it is impossible to accept a thing that does not exist," Erdogan told a news conference in London.