The president is fulfilling the campaign promise he made on Saturday a year ago
Wilmington, Delaware, at the beginning of the 20th century, the systematic murder and deportation of more than 1 million Armenians by the Ottoman army was called “genocide.” Fearing to alienate its ally Turkey, the White House has avoided using it for decades.
Turkey reacted strongly. The Foreign Minister said that Turkey “will not learn from anyone about our history.” Grateful Armenia expressed appreciation for Biden’s “principled position”, which is a step towards “restoring historical truth and justice.”
Biden fulfilled his campaign promise made at the annual commemorative event on Saturday (the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide) a year ago in recognition of the events that began in 1915 as a deliberate effort to end the Armenians.
Although the previous presidents made serious reflections on the dark moments in history, they carefully avoided using the term genocide because they feared that genocide would complicate relations with Turkey, NATO allies and the Middle East powers.
But Biden vowed to fulfill his promise to make human rights the central axis of his foreign policy. He argued last year that not marking the atrocities against the Armenian people as genocide would pave the way for future mass atrocities. An estimated 2 million Armenians were deported, and 1.5 million of them were killed in an incident known as Metz Yeghern.
Biden said in a statement: “The American people pay tribute to all the Armenians who lost their lives in the genocide that began 106 years ago today.” “We affirm history. We do this not to blame, but to make sure what happened. Things will never be repeated.”
Armenian Prime Minister Nicole Pasinyan said in a letter to Biden that the recognition of genocide “is important not only in respecting the memories of 1.5 million innocent victims, but also in preventing the recurrence of such crimes.”
Turkish officials responded immediately.
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement: “We strongly reject and condemn the statement made by the President of the United States on the events of 1915 under pressure from the Armenian radical circles and anti-Turkish groups.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a tweet that “words cannot change history or rewrite history” and Turkey “totally reject” Biden’s statement.
A few minutes before Biden’s announcement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a message to the heads of the Armenian community and the Armenian Church, asking not to forget Muslim Turks and Christians. The “Culture of Coexistence” of Armenians. He said that this topic has been forgotten. “Politicized by a third party and become a tool to interfere in our country.”
The U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Turkey issued a demonstration alert and announced that their offices will be closed on Monday and Tuesday to provide regular services. This is a “precautionary measure.” They warned Americans to avoid avoiding areas around U.S. government buildings and to be careful where foreigners gather.
A person familiar with the matter said that Biden had informed Erdogan of his plan to issue a statement on Friday’s call. He is not authorized to discuss private conversations publicly and speaks on condition of anonymity.
Following the appeals of Biden and Erdogan, the US and Turkish governments did not mention in separate statements the US plan to recognize the Armenian genocide. But the White House said that Biden told Erdogan that he hopes to improve relations between the two countries and find “effective ways to handle differences.” The two countries also agreed to hold a bilateral meeting at the NATO summit in Brussels in June.
In Armenia on Saturday, people flocked to the hilltop complex in the capital Yerevan to commemorate the victims. Many people place flowers around the eternal flame, forming a flower wall two meters (seven feet) high.
Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Avit Ardenz spoke at the memorial before Biden’s statement, saying that the US president who used the term genocide “will become a model for other parts of the civilized world”.
Biden’s phone call with Erdogan is the first since he took office three months ago. Delays have become a worrying signal in Ankara. Erdogan has a good relationship with former President Donald Trump. Despite the friction with Biden in the past, he still hopes to restart.