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Obama stops short of calling Armenian massacre genocide

Obama stops short of calling Armenian massacre genocide
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President Obama on Friday marked the anniversary of the Ottoman Turks’ massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 but once again stopped short of labeling it a genocide. 

“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,” he said in a statement.

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The statement came on the final Armenian Remembrance Day of Obama's presidency. 

Obama’s refusal to call the mass killings a genocide is a gesture to Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S. and an important member of the president’s coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

But it also breaks a 2008 campaign promise, when he said the “the Armenian genocide is not an allegation … but rather a widely documented fact.”

Obama noted the debate over the use of the term genocide and urged the Turks to make a full accounting of the mass killings.

“We continue to underscore the importance of historical remembrance as a tool of prevention, as we call for a full, frank, and just acknowledgment of the facts, which would serve the interests of all concerned,” he said.

“I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed.”

He 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. 

Armenian-American organizations and human-rights groups have long pressed Obama to call it a genocide as president, to no avail.

“It seems President Obama will end his tenure as he began it, caving in to pressure from Turkey and betraying his commitment to speak honestly about the Armenian Genocide,” Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian said in a statement Thursday, before the White House issued the presidential statement. 

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called Obama's decision "painfully inexplicable" given his comments about the killings as a senator and presidential candidate. 

“I’m gravely disappointed that President Obama will now leave office without fulfilling his commitment to recognize the Armenian Genocide," he said in a statement. "Recognition of the Armenian Genocide could have been a proud part of the president's legacy; instead this decision will be just another sad milestone in the struggle to prevent genocide by exposing genocide and its perpetrators."

Updated at 11:55 a.m.