Obama and Erdogan (file)
Obama and Erdogan (file)Reuters

Further breaching his 2008 pre-election promises to "recognize the Armenian genocide" at the hands of the Ottoman Turks between 1915-1917, US President Barack Obama will not recognize the genocide ahead of the 100th anniversary this Friday according to officials.

Armenian American leaders were invited to the White House on Tuesday to discuss the anniversary, but according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, they were told by administration officials that Obama will not recognize the genocide.

"His failure to use the term genocide represents a major blow for human rights advocates and sets the clock back on genocide prevention," Bryan Ardouny, director of the Armenian Assembly of America, was quoted as saying.

Obama's failure to recognize the genocide comes after Pope Francis last Sunday publicly recognized the genocide, angering Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Last Thursday the EU Parliament also voted to recognize the genocide, making Obama's silence all the more noticeable.

Partially explaining his silence is the close relationship between Obama and the Islamist Erdogan, who Obama reportedly called the Middle Eastern leader who he feels closest to.

Meeting the Armenian American leaders on Tuesday was White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, a leading foreign policy adviser of Obama.

According to a National Security Council statement, McDonough and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes "discussed the significance of this occasion for honoring the 1.5 million lives extinguished during that horrific period," all while carefully avoiding the term "genocide."

"Open dialogue" in Turkey?

Aside from the meeting with Armenian leaders, a meeting was also held between National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Rice reportedly urged him to "improve relations with Armenia," and have an open dialogue in Turkey about the "atrocities of 1915."

For the 100th anniversary on Friday, the White House announced it will send Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to Armenia for a commemorative ceremony. He will be joined by US Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills and four lawmakers.

Ahead of the anniversary, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) urged Obama to "recognize the genocide of the Armenians."

"I also appeal to the Turkish government to recognize the genocide and issue a genuine apology," Smith added.

Over one-third of the Armenian population was massacred by the Turks, in a campaign launched when Turkish authorities ordered the executions of much of the Armenian elite in Istanbul on April 24, 1915. Men, women, and children were later murdered by various means, including through forced marches, starvation, and poison.

The Ottoman government set up some 25 concentration camps as well throughout the period, and mass graves of up to 60,000 people were found in some locations.