Biden Aims To Recognize the Armenian Genocide on the Anniversary of the Massacre

In the coming days, it is expected that U.S. President Joe Biden will recognize the Armenian genocide that was committed by Turkey, in a move that could worsen relations between the U.S. and Turkey. This would take place on the anniversary of the Armenian genocide, which happened on April 24, 1915.*

Reuters quoted informed sources as saying that Biden informed his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Friday, during a phone call that he intends to recognize the massacre of Armenians in 1915 as a “genocide.”

Earlier yesterday, the White House said that Biden had spoken with the Turkish president over the phone in their first direct contact.

The phone call took place more than three months after Biden’s inauguration, a delay that is widely considered to be evidence of tense U.S.-Turkish relations. The two leaders discussed areas of cooperation, as well as ways to effectively manage disputes, according to a statement issued by the White House.

Biden agreed with the Turkish president to hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines during the NATO summit this upcoming June.

The Turkish presidency said in a statement that “both leaders agreed on the strategic character of the bilateral relationship and the importance of working together to build greater cooperation on issues of mutual interest.”

The U.S. State Department referred to an upcoming “announcement” on Saturday about the “Armenian genocide,” which seems to confirm the Biden administration’s preparation to recognize it.

“When it comes to the Armenian genocide, you can expect an announcement tomorrow,” Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department Jalina Porter told reporters.

U.S. media outlets expect that, within days, Biden will officially recognize the massacre at the hands of the Ottoman Empire that affected 1.5 million Armenians during World War I as “genocide” in a move that will lead to a worsening of relations between the United States and Turkey. In a symbolic resolution, the House of Representatives and Senate voted in 2019 to use the term “genocide” in this regard.

U.S.-Turkish relations are weakening, especially with Ankara’s insistence on purchasing the Russian S-400 air-defense system, which led the United States to ban it from buying American F-35 fighter jets.

Turkey was excluded from the F-35 development program in 2019 as a punishment for its decision to purchase the Russian military system, after failing to reach an agreement on the U.S. Patriot missile system used by the majority of other NATO countries.

Biden Pledged To Recognize the Armenian Genocide

Last year, during his presidential campaign, Biden pledged to recognize the Armenian genocide. In a statement issued on April 24, 2020, he said, “We must never forget or remain silent about this horrific and systematic campaign of extermination,” adding that [if we remain silent], the massacres that occurred under Ottoman rule against the Armenians “lose their meaning.”

Senior legislators in Biden’s Democratic Party made declarations of strong support for the move, which is expected to happen soon, likely on the annual day of remembrance for the victims of the 1915 massacre.

“I am so relieved, gratified, and moved that we can finally commemorate the anniversary with the knowledge that the government of the United States … will have recognized the truth of the Armenian genocide at last,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Despite decades of pressure from the Armenian community in the United States for Washington to recognize the Armenian genocide, U.S. presidents, one after another, have avoided doing so out of fears of severing ties with NATO ally Turkey, which vehemently rejects this characterization.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu warned in an interview that Biden’s move would spoil relations between the two countries, saying “if the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs.”

Countries that Recognize the Armenian Genocide

Approximately 30 countries, in addition to the European Union, have described the massacre committed by the Ottoman Empire (what is now modern Turkey) against Armenians between 1915 and 1917 as a “genocide.”

In 2019, both houses of Congress voted to use the term “genocide” in a symbolic resolution.

Turkey vehemently rejects the description of the mass killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1917 as genocide, although it acknowledges that many massacres took place.

It is estimated that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed during World War I by Ottoman forces or other non-systematic forces. Turkey acknowledges that 300,000 Armenians may have died in civil war and famine, but denies that a genocide took place.

On April 24, 1915, thousands of Armenians who were suspected of opposing Ottoman rule were arrested, and the Armenian population of Anatolia and Cilicia was expelled to the Mesopotamian desert “for reasons related to domestic security.”

A large number died on the way or in internment camps. Additionally, many were shot, burned alive, drowned, poisoned or fell victim to disease, according to the observations of foreign diplomats and intelligence services at the time.

*Editor’s note: President Biden did recognize the Armenian genocide on its anniversary, April 24, 2021.

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