WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Saturday marked the anniversary of the massacre of Armenians in Turkey nearly a century ago by calling it a "horrific" slaughter, but once again stopped short of branding it genocide.
In a written statement, Obama said the 1915 killings of some 1.5 million Armenians represent "one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century." But for the third straight year, he failed to use the word genocide to describe it.
As a candidate for president, Obama repeatedly vowed to recognize the genocide once in office, vowing "a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide."
But since 2009, Obama has declined to use the word in the face of furious resistance from Turkey, a key NATO ally.
Most historians see the killings as the first genocide of the 20th century, and accept the figure of 1.5 million Armenian deaths. However, Turkish leaders have long rejected the term, contending the figures are inflated and saying there were many deaths on both sides as the Ottoman Empire collapsed during World War I.
In his statement, Obama said "contested history destabilizes the present and stains the memory of those whose lives were taken." He said America knows this from the dark chapters in its own history.
He praised efforts in Armenia and Turkey "to foster a dialogue that acknowledges their common history. "
But Obama confined himself to using the Armenian name for the slaughter, Meds Yeghern, and paying tribute "to the memories of those who perished."
He said his view of what took place hasn't changed since the campaign, adding, "A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests."