Obama and Putin
Obama and PutinReuters

Finalizing his breach of 2008 pre-election promises, US President Barack Obama was notably absent from memorial ceremonies in Armenia on Friday marking 100 years to the genocide committed by Ottoman Turks, in which up to 1.5 million Armenians were massacred from 1915-1917.

While Obama had pledged to recognize the massacre as a genocide, he continued to hold his silence for the anniversary after his officials told Armenian American leaders this week at the White House that he would not recognize the genocide.

Apparently fearing to run afoul of Turkey, whose Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reacted fiercely to international attempts to recognize the genocide, Obama on Thursday merely called the World War I massacres "terrible carnage."

Obama's absence from the ceremonies at the Armenian capital of Yerevan, where a minute of silence was held in memory of the victims, was made all the more poignant by the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as French President Francois Hollande, reports Associated Press.

The American delegation to the ceremony was to be led by US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

In the ceremony Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and his wife Rita lay a wreath at a 44-meter tall hilltop memorial, with foreign diplomats placing a yellow rose in the wreath.

Later on hundreds of thousands of Armenians were to join a procession to the memorial of the mass killing with candles and flowers. The solemn ceremonies are to take place in cities worldwide by members of the Armenian diaspora, which was created when Armenians fled the slaughter.

Obama falling short of Europe

After being told by White House officials that Obama will not recognize the genocide, Bryan Ardouny, director of the Armenian Assembly of America, said this week that Obama's "failure to use the term genocide represents a major blow for human rights advocates and sets the clock back on genocide prevention."

Obama's failure to recognize the genocide comes after Pope Francis last Sunday publicly recognized the genocideangering Erdogan and leading Turkey to recall its Vatican envoy.

Last Thursday the EU Parliament also voted to recognize the genocide, and after Austria recognized the genocide Ankara pulled its ambassador to Vienna on Wednesday.

Partially explaining Obama's silence and reneging on his promises is the close relationship between him and the Islamist Erdogan, who Obama reportedly has called the Middle Eastern leader who he feels closest to.

Erdogan said on Thursday that he "hopes and wants" for Obama not to refer to the genocide as such.

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.