Erdogan says Biden's genocide recognition 'destructive'

Turkey vehemently denies a deliberate policy of genocide
Turkey vehemently denies a deliberate policy of genocide Ozan KOSE AFP
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Ankara (AFP)

Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday denounced US President Joe Biden's recognition of the Armenian genocide as "groundless" and harmful to bilateral ties.

Erdogan had issued a carefully-worded statement moments before Biden made his landmark announcement on Saturday at a ceremony commemorating the tragic 1915-17 events.

But Erdogan did not hold back his anger in a televised address that he also used to point out the US history of slavery and persecution of Native Americans.

"The US president has made comments that are groundless and unfair," Erdogan said in televised remarks.

"We believe that these comments were included in the declaration following pressure from radical Armenian groups and anti-Turkish circles. But this situation does not reduce the destructive impact of these comments."

The Armenians -- supported by historians and scholars -- say 1.5 million of their people died in a genocide committed under the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

Ankara accepts that both Armenians and Turks died in huge numbers as Ottoman forces fought tsarist Russia.

But Turkey vehemently denies a deliberate policy of genocide and notes that the term had not been legally defined at the time.

Biden tried to temper the inevitable Turkish anger by calling Erdogan for the first time since taking office in January.

The two leaders agreed in the Friday phone call to meet on the sidelines of a NATO summit in June.

But Erdogan said on Monday that Biden needed "to look in the mirror" when calling the century-old events a genocide.