US President Barack Obama said Monday he stood by his 2008 assertion that Ottoman Turks carried out widespread killings of Armenians early in the 20th century, finessing the sensitive issue by stopping short of repeating the word "genocide."
"Well, my views are on the record and I have not changed views," Obama said, standing alongside Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in the years leading up to and during World War I, an event widely viewed by many scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, claiming the toll has been inflated and the casualties were victims of civil war and unrest.
In a January 2008 statement on his campaign web site, Obama said that "the 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."
He added: "America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that president."