* Obama does not call killings by Turkish forces genocide
* Turkey's PM says Obama recognizes Turkish sensitivities
* U.S.-based Armenian group says disappointed with Obama
(Adds Turkish comments, Armenia group, paragraphs 2, 13-16)
By John Poirier
WASHINGTON, April 24 President Barack Obama on
Saturday marked the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by
Turkish forces, calling it one of the worst atrocities of the
20th century, but avoiding any mention of "genocide."
Turkey objects to the killings being labeled "genocide" and
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Obama's remarks took
into consideration "the sensitivities" of his country. But a
U.S.-based Armenian group said it was disappointed in Obama.
"On this solemn day of remembrance, we pause to recall that
95 years ago one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century
began. In that dark moment of history, 1.5 million Armenians
were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of
the Ottoman Empire," Obama said in a statement issued by the
His remarks came as Armenia marked the 95th anniversary of
the World War One killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, and
against a backdrop of failed peace with Turkey and fresh saber
rattling with enemy Azerbaijan. [ID:nLDE63N01O]
A deal between Turkey and Armenia to establish diplomatic
ties and reopen their border collapsed on Thursday when Armenia
suspended ratification over Turkish demands that it first make
peace with Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of
Obama used the term genocide as a presidential candidate,
but not since becoming president in January 2009.
He said the 1915 massacre must not be repeated, but
carefully avoided getting entangled in the debate over whether
Turkey was responsible for genocide against the Armenians.
U.S. HOUSE RESOLUTION
Turkey was infuriated in March when a U.S. House of
Representatives committee voted on a nonbinding "genocide"
resolution over the killings. The full House has not voted on
the measure and it is not clear whether it could pass.
U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton has said the Obama
administration opposes the House measure.
Obama said that he is "encouraged by the dialogue among
Turks and Armenians, and within Turkey itself, regarding this
The House panel vote had appeared to jeopardize progress by
Armenia and Turkey to normalize relations, one key to stability
in the south Caucasus, a region crisscrossed by oil and gas
pipelines to Europe.
Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Washington and has said
he will not return until Ankara gets assurances about the fate
of the resolution, which the Obama administration opposed.
The U.S. aerospace and defense industry -- including
Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), Boeing Co (BA.N), Raytheon Co
(RTN.N), United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) and Northrop Grumman
Corp (NOC.N) -- opposed the measure and warned in March that it
could jeopardize U.S. exports to Turkey, rupture U.S.-Turkish
relations and put American jobs at risk.
In a statement carried by state news agency Anatolian,
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said, "President Obama
made a speech taking into consideration the sensitivities of
Turkey. ... The speech by Obama shows the sensitivity of the
current U.S. administration about this issue."
But Turkey's Foreign Ministry in a separate statement said,
"We are sorry to see such a statement, which has a one-sided
political view, and which contains mistakes. The biggest enemy
of historical facts is the revision of memory. No country
should impose on others its views of history."
The Armenian National Committee of America expressed
disappointment that Obama did not call the event a genocide.
"Sadly, for the U.S. and worldwide efforts to end the cycle
of genocide, he made the wrong choice, allowing Turkey to
tighten its gag-rule on American genocide policy," ANCA
Chairman Ken Hachikian said in a statement.
Obama said he has "consistently" stated his own view of
what occurred in 1915. "And my view of that history has not
changed," he said. He added that it is in everyone's interest
to reach "a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts."
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, editing by Stacey