US President Biden recognises Armenian killing as 'genocide'

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

On Saturday, US president Joe Biden recognised the killing and deportation of ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor to modern day Turkey during World War One as a 'genocide', becoming the first US president to do so.

In a statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, Biden said "[t]he American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today [...] We remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring." He also said, "we remember so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms."

When running in last year's US presidential election, Biden promised in a tweet to "support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide". He also previously supported a 2019 resolution in the United States House of Representatives that recognised the 'genocide' as such. Another resolution passed by the United States Senate April 9, 2019 promised "to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance" and "reject efforts" to "associate the United States Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide".

While Ronald Reagan referred in passing to the "Armenian genocide" in 1981, no US president has done so since. Biden's predecessor Donald Trump called it "one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century". Turkey does not recognise the killings as a 'genocide'.

Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan said in a tweet "[t]he US has once again demonstrated its unwavering commitment to protecting human rights and universal values", and in a letter his thanks for Biden's "principled position" as "a powerful step on the way to acknowledging the truth". Director of the Armenian National Committee of America Aram Hamparian called Biden's recognition "profoundly meaningful for our families".

The Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected Biden's terminology, saying in a statement they "reject and denounce in the strongest terms the statement of the President of the US regarding the events of 1915 made under the pressure of radical Armenian circles and anti-Turkey groups". Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted "[w]ords cannot change or rewrite history. We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past."

An anonymous source informed the AP, in a phone call on Friday, Biden told Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan he was planning on releasing the statement; the US President's Executive Office confirmed plans of US and Turkey to find "effective management of disagreements" and, according to NBC News, a "constructive bilateral relationship".