Armenian groups slam Obama over 1915 statement
Lobbying organizations for Armenians slammed U.S. President Barack Obama over his statement commemorating the centennial anniversary of 1915 events.
President Obama declined to call the 1915 events "genocide" when the Ottoman Empire relocated more than a million Armenians during World War I.
"The sad spectacle of President Obama playing word games with genocide, so obviously dodging the truth at the direction of a foreign power, falls beneath the dignity of the American people," Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Washington-based Armenian National Committee of America, said.
Hamparian also criticized Obama for allegedly failing to keep his promise to Armenians that he reportedly made during his 2008 presidential campaign when he said he would recognize the 1915 events as “genocide."
"He has, regretfully, proven to the world today that he is not that president. In fact, it's now clear that President Obama's misguided attempt to appease Ankara has only isolated Washington," he added.
In his statement, Obama referred to the 1915 events as “Meds Yeghern” or "great calamity."
"President Obama's exercise in linguistic gymnastics on the American genocide is unbecoming of the standard he himself set and that of a world leader today," Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, one of the largest Armenian lobbying organization in Washington, said.
All American presidents have refrained from labeling the 1915 events as "genocide" except for Ronald Reagan.
George H. W. Bush had initiated the practice of issuing presidential statements on the Armenian Remembrance Day in 1990 in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. It became a regular practice since 1993 when Bill Clinton became the U.S. president.
Turkey has called for the establishment of a joint commission of historians and the opening of archives to study and uncover what happened between the Ottoman Empire and its Armenian citizens.
The 1915 events took place during World War I when a portion of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire sided with the invading Russians and revolted.
The relocation by the Ottomans of Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts resulted in numerous casualties. Turkey does not dispute that there were casualties on both sides, but rejects the definition of "genocide."