YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian government on Thursday commended George W. Bush for paying his respects to 1.5 million Armenia’s massacred and starved to death in the Ottoman Empire but expressed hope that the US president will eventually refer to the mass killings as "genocide."
"We appreciate the fact that President Bush continued the tradition by issuing a statement on the day of the remembrance of the Armenian Genocide," Armenian foreign ministry spokeswoman Dziunik Aghajanian told RFE/RL. "We also appreciate his belief that the best way to remember the victims is to build a prosperous and secure Armenia. However–we hope that for the sake of historic justice and the prevention of such crimes in the future–President Bush will give the events of 1915–poignantly described in his [April 24] message–a proper definition in his future statemen’s: the genocide."
While acknowledging the "forced exile and annihilation of approximately 1.5 million Armenia’s in the closing years of the Ottoman Empire," Bush’s message to the Americans of Armenian origin stopped short of describing the 1915 tragedy as "genocide." This led Armenian-American groups to accuse the president of reneging on his campaign pledge to recognize the Genocide.
The careful wording of the statement reflected Washington’s reluctance to infuriate NATO ally Turkey–which vehemently denies the Genocide. "The Turkish Daily News," an English-language newspaper close to official Ankara–on Thursday welcomed Bush’s decision to avoid calling the massacres a genocide despite strong pressure from the Armenian lobby and over one hundred members of the US Congress.