Biden broke from decades of deliberately calibrated White House commentary on the 1915 killings on Saturday, delighting Armenia and its diaspora in the United States while straining relations between Washington and Ankara, two NATO allies.
“There will be a reaction of different forms and kinds and degrees in coming days and months,” Ibrahim Kalin, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman and adviser, told Reuters in an interview.
Kalin did not specify whether Ankara would restrict US access to the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, which has been used to support the international coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, or other measures it may take.
On Saturday, Turkish officials quickly condemned Biden’s remarks, and Kalin said Erdogan would discuss the topic after a cabinet meeting on Monday. “At a time and place that we consider to be appropriate, we will continue to respond to this very unfortunate unfair statement,” he said.
Turkey acknowledges that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in battles with Ottoman forces after World War One, but it disputes that the massacres were planned in advance and constitute genocide.
For decades, measures recognizing the Armenian Genocide stalled in the US Congress and most US presidents have refrained from calling it that, stymied by concerns about relations with Turkey and intense lobbying by Ankara.
But those relations are already troubled. Washington has put sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of Russian air defenses, while Ankara has been angered that the United States has armed Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria and not extradited a US-based cleric Turkey accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
According to Kalin, resolving such conflicts would now be much more difficult. “Everything that we conduct with the United States will be under the spell of this very unfortunate statement,” he said.
According to Kalin, US officials told Turkey that the declaration would not offer a formal basis for future demands of restitution for the killings.
Nonetheless, Erdogan told the US president over the phone on Friday, their first contact since Biden took office three months ago, that going forwards with his statement would be a “colossal mistake”
“To reduce all that to one word and try to implicate that Turks were involved, our Ottoman ancestors were involved in genocidal acts is simply outrageous,” Kalin said. “It’s not supported by historical fact.”