US President Biden calls 1915 massacres of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire a “genocide”

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden acknowledged the Armenian genocide, a landmark in contrast to Turkey, which strongly rejects the label for the 1915-1917 assassination of the Ottoman Empire. Washington still tried to calm tensions by not “throwing the blame” on Ankara.

“We remember the lives of all those who died during the Ottoman Armenian genocide and are committed to preventing such atrocities from happening again,” Biden said in a statement, becoming the first U.S. president to use the term in an annual statement. .

The largely symbolic feature, which breaks away from decades of carefully calibrated language from the White House, is likely to be celebrated by the Armenian diaspora in the United States, but comes at a time when Ankara and Washington have deep political differences over a range of issues. To limit the furore from NATO allies, Biden informed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his decision to use the word genocide the day before.

“The American people honor all the Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” Biden said in a statement. “For decades, Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic story. We honor their history. We see that pain.”

“We confirm the story. We do this not to blame but to make sure that what happened is never repeated,” he said.

The statement is a massive victory for Armenia and its vast diaspora. Since Uruguay in 1965, nations such as France, Germany, Canada and Russia have recognized the genocide, but a statement from the United States has been an ultimate goal that proved difficult for other presidents until Biden.

Erdogan says debate “should be held by historians”

In a statement to the Armenian Patriarch in Istanbul a moment later, Erdogan said debates “should be held by historians” and not “politicized by third parties.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara Turkey “completely rejects” Washington’s move, minutes after Biden’s statement. “We have nothing to learn from anyone in our own past. Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal of peace and justice,” Cavusoglu said on Twitter. “We completely reject this statement based solely on populism.”

To explain Biden’s move, a US official insisted that the intention was not to blame modern Turkey, which the official called a “critical NATO ally”, but respected the Democratic president’s promises to put a new priority on human rights and stressed his free speech on systemic racism in the United States.

“It is very much the intention of the statement – very much the President’s intention – to do this in a very principled way focused on the merits of human rights, and not for any reason beyond that including putting the blame,” the official told reporters.

For decades, measures recognizing the Armenian genocide have stopped in the US Congress and US presidents have refrained from calling it that, weakened by concerns over relations with Turkey and intense lobbying by Ankara.

Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but competes with the figures and denies that the killings were systematically organized and constituted genocide.

Yerevan thanks Biden for “powerful step towards justice”

As many as 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed between 1915 and 1917 during the declining days of the Ottoman Empire, who suspected that the Christian minority had conspired with the opposite Russia during the First World War.

Armenian people gathered and were deported to the Syrian desert on death marches, many of whom were shot, poisoned or fell ill, according to reports at the time by foreign diplomats.

Turkey, which emerged as a secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, acknowledges that 300,000 Armenians may have died but strongly denies that it was genocide and said they died in battle and famine where many Turks also died.

Recognition has been a top priority for Armenia and Armenian-Americans, demanding compensation and restoration of property over what they call Meds Yeghern – the great crime – and is appealing for more support for the Turkish-backed neighbor Azerbaijan.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan thanked Biden for his “powerful steps towards justice and invaluable support for the heirs of the Armenian genocide victims.”

Biden, whose call to Erdogan to inform him of the recognition of the genocide was their first conversation since the US leader took office three months ago, signaled that he hoped to keep the case down.

Biden and Erdogan agreed in their call to meet in June alongside a NATO summit in Brussels, officials said.

In addition to statements, Turkey did not immediately announce any retaliatory measures – in contrast to angry measures taken after previous Western moves to recognize the genocide.

‘Relationships already in motion’

Tensions have risen sharply with Turkey in recent years due to its purchase of a major air defense system from Russia – NATO’s main opponent – and its encroachments on pro-American Kurdish fighters in Syria.

Biden has kept Erdogan at bay – a contrast to his predecessor Donald Trump, whom the Turkish leader reportedly found so receptive that he would call Trump directly on his phone on the golf course.

The 2019 US Congress had already voted overwhelmingly in recognition of the Armenian genocide, but the Trump administration made it clear that the official US line had not changed. The congressional effort “had no noticeable effect” on US Turkish relations – paving the way for Biden to continue, said Samantha Power, a top aide to Obama who unsuccessfully lobbied Obama to acknowledge the genocide.

Former US presidents have abandoned campaign promises to recognize the Armenian genocide for fear of damaging relations, said Nicholas Danforth, a foreign colleague at The Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy.

“With the connections already in motion, there was nothing to stop Biden from following through,” Danforth said. “Ankara has no allies left in the US government to lobby against this and Washington is not worried about whether it will upset Turkey anymore.”

( Jowharwith AFP & REUTERS)

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More