WASHINGTON – President Biden on Saturday acknowledged the mass killing of Armenians more than a century ago Genocide, Indicating a willingness to test an increasingly tense relationship with Turkey, which has long been a major regional ally and important partner within NATO.
In a statement issued on the occasion of the 106th anniversary of the history of the Armenian Genocide every year on this day, Mr. Biden said that we remember the souls of all those who died in the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman era and we recommit ourselves to preventing such atrocities from happening again. Beginning of a brutal campaign by the former Ottoman Empire that killed 1.5 million people. And we remember so that we remain always vigilant against the devastating impact of hate in all its forms.
Mr. Biden’s declaration reflects his administration’s commitment to human rights, a cornerstone of its foreign policy. It is also a break with Biden’s predecessors, who were reluctant to anger a country of strategic importance and were wary of directing its leadership toward America’s adversaries like Russia or Iran.
The Turkish government, as well as human rights activists and Armenians, gave a silent response to the news that leaked days ago, describing the move as largely symbolic. And state media reported that the country’s foreign minister summoned the US ambassador later on Saturday to protest the announcement.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly denied that the killings amounted to genocide, lobbied hard to block the announcement, and organized a conference and media campaigns ahead of the anniversary on Saturday.
But in a call on Friday, Mr. Biden told Mr. Erdogan directly that he would declare the massacre an act of genocide, according to a person familiar with the discussion who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal details of the conversation.
Only the summary of the call by the White House stated that the couple had agreed on “effective conflict management.” The Turkish presidency said in a statement that the two leaders agreed on “the importance of working together.” They are scheduled to meet at a NATO summit in June.
In his Saturday statement, Mr. Biden recognized the Armenians who had been forced to rebuild their lives.
He said, “We confirm the date.” “We are not doing this to blame but to ensure that what happened does not happen again.”
Since taking office, Biden has kept Mr. Erdogan away, calling on other world leaders – and letting his Turkish counterpart, who had enjoyed a cordial relationship with President Donald J Trump, wait months.
distance The news broke on Wednesday About the impending announcement, Mr. Erdogan said in a statement that Turkey “will defend the truth against the lies of the so-called” Armenian Genocide “.
It is widely expected that Mr Erdogan will use this designation to attract support at home, as he increasingly adopts an Islamist nationalist stance to maintain his voter base. But political analysts said he was likely to be cautious with the United States.
Relations between the two countries have reached their lowest levels in decades, as Mr. Erdogan became more belligerent in his dealings with Washington, especially after the failed coup in 2016. Mr. Erdogan blamed a Turkish cleric for trying to remove him from power. Living in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania, And by extension the United States.
Tensions escalated with the Turkey purchase Missile system from Russia In 2017, which prompted the Trump administration to Impose sanctions on Turkey in December. Syria, too, was a bright spot. He severely criticized Mr. Erdogan US military support for the Kurdish forces In Syria they belong to a group that has been waging a decades-old insurgency against Turkey and its own operations there I underwent more tests Atlantic Alliance.
Mr Erdogan believes that Turkey, a country of 80 million people and a member of the G20, is a regional power that deserves more respect on the world stage. This view was fueled by a greater geopolitical assertion that appeared in the military interventions in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Azerbaijan In the exploration for energy in disputed waters In the eastern Mediterranean last year.
European leaders and members of the Biden administration are calling for continued communication with the Erdogan government because Turkey is home to millions of Syrian refugees who would otherwise head to Europe. They also indicated Turkey’s support for Ukraine and Afghanistan, as it would maintain a small force to train Afghan army and police personnel as the United States and other coalition forces withdraw by 9/11.
The White House’s continued silence towards Erdogan was seen as a sign that Biden did not view Turkey as a priority and was aiming to manage the relationship at the lower levels of the administration.
“They don’t want to get into conflict with him, but they don’t want to be warmer with him either,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office manager for the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
Asli Idintaspas, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Mr Erdogan would not seek further damage to relations on genocide classification. By number oneAt least 29 other countries have taken similar steps.
“In the past, Turkey used to issue all kinds of threats, but recently, the policy towards recognizing genocide from the Allies was ignoring it,” she said. They will issue denunciations, but they will not go so far as to create a crisis. ”
Mr Unlu Hisarcikli, like other analysts and human rights advocates, questioned the timing and purpose of the announcement.
“The Turkish government will feel compelled to respond in ways that have to do with the United States and the relationship between the United States and Turkey,” he said.
He said that the Turkish public would see this as evidence of US double standards, and that anti-Western forces in Turkey would use them to incite anger.
Opposition leaders and government loyalists attacked the expected appointment.
“This is an inappropriate and unfair position,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the largest opposition party, the CHP.
Dogo Perincik, the leader of the far-right National Party, questioned in an open letter to Biden his suitability to make such an announcement. He wrote: “As is well known, the genocide against the Jews was decided in an approved court, but regarding the events of 1915, there is no court ruling.”
The Armenian deaths occurred at the end of World War I during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey. Worried about the Christian Armenian population’s alignment with Russia, the main enemy of the Ottoman Turks, officials ordered a mass deportation in what many historians consider the first genocide of the 20th century: Roughly 1.5 million Armenians were killed, some in massacres by soldiers and Turks. The police and others in a forced displacement to the Syrian desert left them starving to death.
Turkey acknowledged widespread atrocities during this period, but its leaders vehemently denied that the killings were genocide.
In the days leading up to Mr. Biden’s announcement, Armenians and human rights activists in Turkey expressed their caution, partly due to years of political swinging on the issue.
“Personally, it will not make me enthusiastic,” said Ytvart Danzikyan, editor-in-chief of the Armenian-Turkish weekly Agus in Istanbul, referring to the 1981 statement by President Ronald Reagan about the Holocaust in which he mentioned in passing a “genocide of Armenians”.
Murat Celikan, a journalist and long-time rights activist, said the declaration would be beneficial to Armenian-American citizens, but he did not expect it to change attitudes in Turkey or encourage reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.
He said, “The matter has not changed with more than 20 countries officially recognizing it, including Germany.”
In the United States, some Armenian activists welcomed the announcement as a step forward.
“The denial of the genocide was a painful chapter,” said Brian Ardoni, executive director of the Armenian American Association. “This is really a defining moment in the arc of history, in the defense of human rights.”
“The president stands firmly against a century of denial and charts a new course,” he said.
Katie Rogers I mentioned from Washington, and Carlotta Gall From Istanbul. Julia McDonnell Neto Del Rio Contributed to reporting from New York.