Turkish president threatens to recognise US genocide of Native Americans in response to Armenia ruling

Turkey's president has said he would recognise the mass killing of Native Americans by European settlers as genocide, in a tit-for-tat move against a US Congress resolution.

Turkish president threatens to recognise US genocide of Native Americans in response to Armenia ruling
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Turkey's president has said he would recognise the mass killing of Native Americans by European settlers as genocide, in a tit-for-tat move against a US Congress resolution.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out at Congress for a recent bill that recognised the 1915 Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman authorities.

“We should oppose [the US] by reciprocating such decisions in parliament. And that is what we will do," Mr Erdogan said, speaking on the pro-government A Haber news channel. 

“Can we speak about America without mentioning [Native Americans]? It is a shameful moment in US history.”

Around 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were killed by modern-day Turkey’s predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, in the early 20th century.

Turkey accepts that many Armenians were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated, which constitutes a genocide.

Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said the move was a “political show” and “not legally binding”: “Politicians with limited knowledge about the history should not judge the history,” he warned. 

In the US, scholars, activists, and indigenous communities have been writing and teaching about the slaughter of Native American people since the 19th century.

The US legislation is seen as largely symbolic, but the timing and the subject - highly controversial among Turks - will be viewed by Ankara as a deliberate provocation.

 

Relations between the two Nato allies have been strained in recent months over a number of issues including Turkey's purchase of Russian missile defence systems as well as Turkey’s incursion into Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.

Mr Erdogan had threatened last month at the Nato summit in London that he would veto plans to bolster forces in Poland and the Baltics unless the alliance designated the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists. 

He dropped his opposition after a private meeting with Mr Trump.

Shortly after the Armenian genocide vote, House members from both parties also overwhelmingly backed legislation calling on Donald Trump, the US president, to impose sanctions on Turkey over its offensive in Syria.

Seeking to placate Turkey, Mr Trump's administration said Tuesday it does not consider the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 to be genocide. 

"The position of the administration has not changed" after the votes by Congress, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a terse statement.

"Our views are reflected in the president's definitive statement on this issue from last April," she said.