U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday marked the anniversary of the Ottoman Turks’ massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 by a statement addressed to the Armenian American community, but once again stopped short of labeling it a genocide. Instead, he again used a phrase that Armenians themselves often use in describing the events.
“Today we solemnly reflect on the first mass atrocity of the 20th century – the Armenian Meds Yeghern – when one and a half million Armenian people were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths,” Obama said in a statement.
The statement came on the final Armenian Remembrance Day of Obama’s presidency. Refusal to call the 1915 events a genocide breaks Obama’s 2008 campaign promise when he said that the Armenian Genocide is a “widely documented fact”. Armenian-American organizations have long criticized Obama for his failure to properly characterize the massacres of Armenians as genocide, insisting that he has been caving in to pressure from Turkey, a major U.S. ally in the region.
In his address, the outgoing U.S. president, however, stressed: “I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed.”
Obama also invoked Pope Francis, Turkish scholars and other figures who have recognized the massacre as genocide.
“We continue to welcome the expression of views by those who have sought to shed new light into the darkness of the past,” he said.
Armenians in Armenia and around the world will mark the 101st anniversary of the Genocide on April 24.