Armenian-American activists have said that it's a "national disgrace" and a "betrayal" that President Barack Obama is refusing to describe the 1915 massacre of close to 1.5 million Armenian Christians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as a genocide, despite previously promising to do so.
The LA Times reported that White House officials have made clear the president will not use the word genocide when he commemorates the deaths on Friday, which marks the 100th anniversary of the massacres.
"The president's surrender represents a national disgrace," said Aram S. Hamparian, executive director of the Washington-based Armenian National Committee of America. "It is a betrayal of the truth, and it is a betrayal of trust."
Turkey, which formed after the Ottoman Empire disintegrated in 1923, has put pressure on world leaders not to describe the events of 1915 as a genocide. While most Western historians recognize the ethnic and religious cleansing, which included mass deportation, and starvation and killing of Armenians, most of whom were Christians, the Turkish government has attempted to frame the many deaths as a result of World War I-related clashes.
Obama pledged while running for president in 2008 that he will not shy away from using the term, and said: "As president, I will recognize the Armenian genocide."
Obama even criticized former President George W. Bush for failing to do so.
"Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence," Obama said in 2008.
"The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy."
The White House has reportedly explained, however, that it does not want to sour its relations with Turkey, a fellow NATO-member.
"The president and other senior administration officials have repeatedly acknowledged the historical fact that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred and marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire," White House spokesman Eric Schultz added on Wednesday.
"As we have said in previous years, a full frank and just acknowledgment of the facts is in all of our interests, including Turkey's, Armenia's and America's."
Last week Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican after Pope Francis acknowledged the genocide. The pope included it as one of the three "massive and unprecedented tragedies of the 20th century" in a speech, noting that the Armenians were slaughtered because of their faith.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Francis' use of the word was "unacceptable" and "out of touch with both historical facts and legal basis."
"Religious offices are not places through which hatred and animosity are fueled by unfounded allegations," Cavusoglu added in a Tweet.
Armenian Orthodox leaders have called on the world to never forget the victims of the genocide, and have insisted that using the term is appropriate and necessary to describe the killings.
U.S. politicians such as Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Burbank, have also led the charge to have the government recognize the genocide of Armenians, and said that he was "deeply disappointed" with Obama's decision.
"How long must the victims and their families wait before our nation has the courage to confront Turkey with the truth about the murderous past of the Ottoman Empire? If not this president, who spoke so eloquently and passionately about recognition in the past, whom? If not after 100 years, when?" Schiff said in a statement.