Washington – President Joe Biden officially recognized it on Saturday The systematic killing of 1.5 million Armenians By the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 as an act of “genocide,” a long-awaited declaration among Armenian Americans that could further strain US-Turkish relations.
Biden said in a press release: “As of April 24, 1915, the Ottoman authorities arrested Armenian intellectuals and leaders of the Armenian community in Constantinople, one and a half million Armenians were deported, slaughtered or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination.” Saturday statement on the occasion of the Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide. And he stressed the need to acknowledge these atrocities and remember them “so that history does not waste the horrors of what happened.”
“The American people honor all Armenians who died in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” Biden said. “We honor their story, we see that pain, and confirm history. We are not doing it to blame, but to ensure that what happened does not happen again.”
Biden promised during the campaign to describe the killings as genocide. But the former presidents backed away from similar pledges amid fears that it would jeopardize US-Turkish relations.
This step was symbolic, because it carries no legal ramifications, and is heavy, due to the potential geopolitical repercussions, and because it will resonate deeply with the Armenian-American community.
“President Biden’s assertion of the Armenian Genocide marks a milestone in the arc of history for defending human rights,” Brian Ardoni, executive director of the Armenian American Association, said in a statement on Saturday. He said that Biden ended “a century of denial”, in a resolution that “renews the commitment of the United States to the global cause of preventing genocide.”
The Armenian Genocide began in 1915 during World War I, as Turkish leaders began killing and deporting hundreds of thousands of Armenians from the Ottoman Empire. While the modern Turkish government has taken steps to address the atrocities, it has refused to acknowledge the scope of the killings and disputes as being genocide.
Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat in his neighborhood in California that is home to many Armenian Americans, said he was glad Biden’s confession came while “there are still some genocide survivors alive to witness it.”
Schiff said Biden “renounced decades of shameful silence, half-truths, and the false promises of many of his predecessors.”
For years, Turkey has successfully deployed an army of Lobbyists are expensive To prevent Washington from describing the massacre of Armenians as genocide. In 2018, two former President Barack Obama said it was wrong for his administration not to acknowledge genocide.
“Every year there was a reason not to do that,” said Ben Rhodes, who served as Obama’s deputy national security advisor. Podcast interview. “Turkey was vital to some issues that we were dealing with, or there was some dialogue between Turkey and the Armenian government about the past.”
The announcement could “harm relations” with Turkey
Earlier this week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Biden would “harm relations” if he issued a declaration of genocide.
Cavusoglu told the Turkish station Haberturk: ”The statements that do not have any legal obligation will not have any benefit, but will harm relations.” “If the United States wants to worsen relations, the decision is theirs,” he said.
This argument seems to have lost its power. The US-Turkish alliance has seen severe tension in recent years, especially after that The Turkish invasion of Syria in 2019. Another hot spot: Erdogan’s decision to proceed with Turkey’s decision to purchase a Russian missile system, in the face of strong objections from Washington.
“Thanks to the hostility that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has generated through his foreign policy and his human rights violations, there is little desire in Washington to acquiesce in Turkish sentiments about almost anything,” said Alan Makovsky, a Turkey expert and former foreign ministry official. .
Makovsky, who now works for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said Biden’s announcement would have little impact on US-Turkish relations.
He said, “Turkey will cause a rhetoric fuss for a few days and may postpone the action, based on some routine requests from the US military.” “But there are a lot of fundamental problems on the Turkish American board for Ankara to allow this recognition to make a big difference.”
Biden spoke with Erdogan on Friday, in the first conversation between the two heads of state. The White House said Biden had expressed “interest in a constructive bilateral relationship” and “effective conflict management.” The White House account did not mention the genocide issue but said Biden and Erdogan had agreed to meet on the sidelines of the meeting NATO summit in June.
As Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide approaches, members of Congress and Armenian Americans have stepped up pressure on Biden to fulfill his campaign promise.
More than twenty senators wrote in: “The administrations of both parties have been silent about the reality of the Armenian Genocide.” 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 and Senate passed a resolution in 2019 recognizing the Armenian Genocide, another sign of Turkey’s waning influence in Washington – at least on this issue. Legislators said they could not understand the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Empire, and not by present-day Turkey,
“The Ottoman Empire killed more than a million Armenians. It was a genocide that every Armenian I knew knew from his parents or grandparents,” Senator Dick Durbin said in a statement on Friday.
He said: “Acknowledging these historical atrocities is not a reflection of Turkey today, only those who refuse to acknowledge their reality.”