WASHINGTON –on Saturday formally recognized the systematic killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 as an act of “genocide,” a long-sought declaration among Armenian-Americans that could further strain U.S.-Turkey relations.
“Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to theirsaid in a statement on Saturday, marking Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. He emphasized the need to recognize and remember such atrocities “so that the horrors of what happened are never lost to history.”
Biden promised during the campaign to label thea genocide. But previous presidents have reneged on similar pledges it would jeopardize U.S.-Turkey relations. The move was symbolic because it carries no legal repercussions and is weighty because of the potential geopolitical fallout. It will resonate so profoundly with the Armenian-American community.
“a pivotal milestone in the arc of history in defense of human rights,” Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, said in a statement Saturday. Biden has ended “a century of denial,” he said, in a decision that “recommits the United States to the worldwide cause of genocide prevention.”
The Armenian genocide began in 1915 during World War I, as Turkish leaders began to murder and deport hundreds of thousands of Armenians from the Ottoman Empire. While the modern-day Turkish government has taken steps to address the atrocities, it has refused to recognize the scope of the killings and disputes it was a genocide.
Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat whose California district is home to many Armenian-Americans, said he was heartened that Biden’s recognition came. Biden “has cast aside decades of shameful silence and half-truths, and the broken promises of so many of his predecessors,” Schiff said. At the same time, “there are still some genocide survivors alive to witness it.”
For years, Turkey had successfully deployed an army of high-priced lobbyists to stop Washington from labeling the mass slaughter of Armenians as a genocide. In 2018, twoit was a mistake for his administration not to recognize the genocide.
“Every year, there was a reason not to,” Ben Rhodes, who served as Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said during a podcast interview. “Turkey was vital to some issue we were dealing with, or there was some dialogue between Turkey and the Armenian government about the past.”
The declaration could ‘harm ties’ with Turkey. Earlier this United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs,” he said., Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Biden would “harm ties” if he made the genocide declaration. “Statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties,” Cavusoglu told the Turkish broadcaster Haberturk. “If the
That argument seems to have lost its punch. The U.S.-Turkey alliance has deeply frayed in, particularly after Turkey’s 2019 invasion of Syria. Another flashpoint: Erdogan’s decision to move forward with Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile system in the face of fierce objections from Washington.
“Thanks to the hostility Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has engendered through his foreign policy and human rights abuses, there is little desire in Washington to defer to Turkish sensibilities on virtually anything,” said Alan Makovsky, an expert on Turkey and formerofficial.
Now with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, Makovsky said
Biden spoke with Erdogan on Friday, the first conversation between the two heads of state. The White House said Biden expressed “his interest in a constructive bilateralof disagreements.” The White House account did not mention the genocide but said Biden and Erdogan agreed to meet on the margins of a NATO Summit in June.
As Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day approached, Congress members and Armenian-Americans pressured Biden to fulfill his campaign promise. “Administrations of both parties have been silent on the truth of the Armenian genocide,” more than two dozen senators wrote in March 19 letter to Biden. “We urge you to break this pattern of complicity by officially recognizing that the Armenian genocide was a genocide.”
The House anda resolution in 2019 recognizing the Armenian genocide, another sign of Turkey’s waning influence in Washington – at least on that issue. Lawmakers have said they cannot fathom, given the atrocities were committed by Ottoman Empire, not modern-day Turkey,
“The Ottoman Empire killed more than one million Armenians. It was a genocide that every Armenian Ior grandparents,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement Friday. “Acknowledging this historic atrocity is no reflection on today’s Turkey, only those who refuse to admit its reality,” he said.