Biden becomes the first US president to recognize the Armenian genocide | Joe biden


Joe Biden became the first US president to officially declare recognition of the Armenian genocide, more than a century after the massacres perpetrated by Ottoman troops and the opening of a wedge between the new US administration and Ankara.

“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” Biden said in a statement on Saturday.

“From April 24, 1915 with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by the Ottoman authorities, a million and a half Armenians were deported, massacred or marched to their death in a campaign of extermination .

Biden called Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan on Friday to inform him that the United States would proceed with the designation on the 106th anniversary of the genocide. The conversation was reportedly tense and the issue was not mentioned in official accounts of the exchange.

Biden’s statement was immediately denounced by Ankara.

“Words cannot change or rewrite history,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt ÇavuÅŸoÄŸlu said on Twitter. “We have nothing to learn from anyone about our own past. Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal of peace and justice. We entirely reject this statement based solely on populism. “

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said: “It is clear that said statement has no scientific and legal basis, and is not supported by any evidence. This statement… will open a deep wound that undermines our mutual trust and friendship. We call on the American president to correct this serious error ”

A senior U.S. administration official said Biden would have made the statement regardless of the state of bilateral relations with Turkey.

“This is something that has been a deeply held belief of President Biden for a very long time when he was in the Senate and it was a position he expressed very clearly during the campaign,” the official said.

The official also made a connection with the resurgence of identity problems around the Black Lives Matter movement and the attacks against Asian Americans.

“I would say we’re also at a time, including here in the United States, where people are grappling with their stories and the impact of those stories and so I think even historically it’s a good time to do it . “

Turkey’s status as a NATO member and longtime regional ally has prevented US presidents from making an official designation. But relations between Washington and Ankara have deteriorated dramatically in recent years.

The statement marked the culmination of decades of lobbying by Armenian-American organizations.

“This is a crucial moment for the defense of human rights,” said Bryan Ardouny, head of the Armenian Assembly of America. “It’s been a long journey. President Biden stands firm against a century of denial and is leading the way for human rights everywhere. “

The murder of up to 1.5 million Armenians took place as the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the modern state of Turkey was being born. Many victims died on death marches in the Syrian desert. The massacre is widely viewed as a crime on a monumental scale – and a sinister precursor to the Nazi Holocaust.

Ronald Reagan mentioned in passing the Armenian genocide in a statement on the Holocaust in 1981, but it was not followed by formal recognition. Barack Obama promised the Armenians of America that he would take this step, but he returned once in power, not wanting to upset an ally. In 2019, both houses of Congress declared their own recognition, despite Donald Trump’s efforts to stop them.

Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish political scientist, said the Biden statement would be a watershed moment in Ankara-Washington relations, but said economic considerations could force ErdoÄŸan to downplay the impact of an issue he previously saw as an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the modern economy. State.

“This is not the first time that an American president has come to power by pledging to recommend the Armenian genocide,” said Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute.

A rally in remembrance of the 1915 genocide at the Armenian Martyrs Monument in Montebello, Calif., On Saturday. Photograph: David Swanson / Reuters

“What has happened in the past is that as soon as these presidents took office, government departments informed them. It is not happening now, and it has to do with the shift in American perspective inside Washington. Now Turkey is one of the most hated countries, especially in the Pentagon. “

He said Turkey’s decision to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense system was the main reason for the change in attitude. Political disputes over the Kurds and the Islamic State also played a role.

Administration officials noted that Biden had sought to soften the impact on relations with Ankara, pointing out that the genocide was carried out before the birth of modern Turkey and that the focus was not on blame but on the memory.

“The statement makes it very clear that the aim was not to blame,” the senior official said. “He talks about the atrocities of the Ottoman era. And I think it was really done in a very principled way to focus on the legacy of these atrocities and is also very forward looking, in the hope that we can prevent such atrocities from happening. do not recur in the future. “

Samantha Power, a former US envoy to the United Nations and now Biden’s candidate for head of the US Agency for International Development, tried and failed at the last hurdle to persuade Obama to acknowledge the genocide.

She said on Twitter it was “sad to think of all those who worked so hard for recognition but didn’t see it happen. First and foremost, the community of survivors – almost all of whom are deceased. Denial of the genocide caused them and their families immense pain.


Kevin E. Boling

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