One thing he did not do, however, is utter the word "genocide" – even though during the presidential campaign he said that actions by Ottoman Turks against Armenians before and during World War I, when up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed, should be recognized as such.
Here, via Fox News, is a statement from the president's Web site during the campaign:
"I also share with Armenian Americans -- so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors -- a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history. As a U.S. senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey's acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide."The president was far more measured in his comments today. In his opening remarks before the Turkish parliament, here's what he had to say:
I know there are strong views in this chamber about the terrible events of 1915. While there has been a good deal of commentary about my views, this is really about how the Turkish and Armenian people deal with the past. And the best way forward for the Turkish and Armenian people is a process that works through the past in a way that is honest, open and constructive.He went on to laud cooperation between the two countries and note that "the United States strongly supports the full normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia." But the president never went beyond his characterization of the situation as "terrible."
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Photo Essay: Obama Travels To Turkey (AP)
In an event with Turkish President Abdullah Gul the before the speech, Mr. Obama was asked this directly: "You said as president you would recognize the genocide. And my question for you is, have you changed your view, and did you ask President Gul to recognize the genocide by name?"
The president responded that "my views are on the record and I have not changed views" - though he declined to reiterate those views. He noted that Gul's administration is negotiating with Armenia "to resolve a whole host of longstanding issues, including this one," adding that "I want to be as encouraging as possible around those negotiations."
"…what I want to do is not focus on my views right now but focus on the views of the Turkish and the Armenian people," the president said. "If they can move forward and deal with a difficult and tragic history, then I think the entire world should encourage them."
He added that he is not interested in "the United States in any way tilting these negotiations one way or another while they are having useful discussions."