US President refuses to endorse bill, which angered Turkey, and exposed rifts between the White House and US lawmakers.
US President Donald Trump has acted once again to save Turkish-US relations by refusing to adopt the US Congress’ stance on the contentious issue of the 1915 events.
Lawmakers angered longtime US ally Turkey by alleging the events were a “genocide” against Armenians but the Trump administration is not accepting the designation.
"The position of the (US) Administration has not changed. Our views are reflected in the President's definitive statement on this issue from last April," said State Department spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, in a statement on the events of 1915.
In the statement, Trump did not describe the 1915 events as a “genocide” like the US Senate did last Thursday, indicating severe disagreement within the US on the issue.
"We pledge to learn from past tragedies so as to not to repeat them. We welcome the efforts of Armenians and Turks to acknowledge and reckon with their painful history,” the American president said last April.
For years, Ankara has offered to create a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia to reveal exactly what happened during the 1915 events, but the Armenian side has refused this offer to this date.
Trump’s stance on the issue reveals further disagreement with US legislative bodies. In the Democratic-dominated House of Representatives, Congress members are seeking to impeach the president on Wednesday.
Regardless of the pressures placed on him by politicians, Trump has refused to tow the establishment line and has acted independently when it comes to foreign relations.
In a November meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Trump at the White House, both leaders appeared to make inroads in addressing longstanding issues, including Turkey’s Syria operation against the terrorist YPG group and Ankara’s procurement of Russian S-400 missiles. Both issues have been a source of contention for years now.
While Trump has moved to maintain relations, US lawmakers have sought to scupper relations at any opportunity.
"We regret that the polarisation in US domestic politics has had negative consequences for us and that some groups abuse the developments about our country for their own interests to weaken Trump," Erdogan said during a TV interview on Sunday.
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a package of sanctions against Ankara due to Turkey’s operation against terrorists in Syria and the S-400 issue.
The US Senate has also passed a defence bill with several anti-Turkey measures, including a ban on delivering of F-35 fighter jets, which Ankara has already bought, and a demand on Trump to implement sanctions on Turkey.
The bill also lifted the US arms embargo on the Greek Cypriot Administration, in an apparent move to strengthen the Greek political position in the East Mediterranean, where Ankara and Athens have serious disagreements over gas exploration rights in the newly discovered gas-rich fields.
The Senate measure also imposes sanctions on vessels working on developing the Turkstream, a pipeline project Ankara and Moscow launched to bring Russian natural gas to Turkey.
The events of 1915
Turkey maintains that there was no genocide against Armenians, saying that the 1915 events happened amidst the terrible conditions of World War I as the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor state of Turkey, was fighting Russian invaders in the Anatolian heartland.
At the time, the major Armenian political movements supported the invading Russian forces against the Ottomans, in order to claim a part of Anatolia for their own rule.
After suffering heavy losses at the hands of Armenian separatists backed by imperial Russian forces, the Ottoman Empire ordered the mass relocation of Armenian populations from eastern Anatolia to its southern territories in order to secure its territory.
“This resolution of the Senate is one of the disgraceful examples of politicisation of history. However, those who exploit history by disregarding reality for their political interests will never achieve their aims,” said a Turkish foreign ministry statement on December 12.