President Joe Biden on Saturday recognized the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as a genocide, risking a possible fracture with Turkey but signaling a commitment to global human rights.In a statement marking the 106th anniversary of the massacre's start, Biden wrote, "Each year on today , we remember the lives of all those that died within the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring."
"Today, as we mourn what was lost, allow us to also turn our eyes to the longer term -- toward the planet that we wish to create for our youngsters . A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are ready to pursue their lives in dignity and security," Biden said. "Let us renew our shared resolve to stop future atrocities from occurring anywhere within the world. And allow us to pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the planet ."
The move fulfills Biden's campaign pledge to finally use the word genocide to explain the systematic killing and deportation of Armenians in what's now Turkey quite a century ago. Biden's predecessors within the White House had stopped in need of using the word, wary of damaging ties with a key regional ally.Earlier in the week , US officials had been sending signals to allies outside the administration -- who are pushing for a politician declaration -- that the President would recognize the genocide. Addressing the potential move in an interview with a Turkish broadcaster in the week , Turkey's secretary of state said, "If the us wants to worsen ties, the choice is theirs."
The government of Turkey often registers complaints when foreign governments describe the event, which began in 1915, using the word "genocide." They maintain that it had been wartime and there have been losses on each side , and that they put the amount of dead Armenians at 300,000.Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both avoided using the word genocide to avoid angering Ankara.
But Biden has determined that relations with Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan -- which have deteriorated over the past several years anyway -- shouldn't prevent the utilization of a term that might validate the plight of Armenians quite a century ago and signal a commitment to human rights today.
The declaration won't bring with it any new legal consequences for Turkey, only diplomatic fallout.
As vice president , Biden dealt frequently with Erdoğan and made four trips to Turkey, including within the aftermath of a failed coup attempt. But since then he's offered a less-than-rosy view of the Turkish leader.
"I've spent tons of your time with him. he's an autocrat," he told the ny Times editorial board in 2020. "He's the President of Turkey and tons more. What i feel we should always be doing is taking a really different approach to him now, making it clear that we support opposition leadership."Biden spoke by telephone with Erdoğan on Friday, his first conversation with the Turkish leader since taking office. The long period without communication had been interpreted as a symbol Biden is placing less importance on the US relationship with Turkey going forward.
The two men agreed to satisfy face to face on the sidelines of a mid-June NATO summit in Brussels. The White House said Biden conveyed "his interest during a constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements," but the readout didn't mention the Armenian genocide issue.
The campaign of atrocities Biden is acknowledging began the nights of April 23 and 24, 1915, when authorities in Constantinople, the Ottoman capital, rounded up about 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders. Many of them ended up deported or assassinated. April 24, referred to as Red Sunday, is commemorated as Genocide Remembrance Day by Armenians round the world.
The number of Armenians killed has been a serious point of contention. Estimates range from 300,000 to 2 million deaths between 1914 and 1923, with not all of the victims within the Ottoman Empire . But most estimates including one among 800,000 between 1915 and 1918, made by Ottoman authorities themselves fall between 600,000 and 1.5 million.
Whether thanks to killings or forced deportation, the amount of Armenians living in Turkey fell from 2 million in 1914 to under 400,000 by 1922.
While the price is at issue , photographs from the age document some mass killings. Some show Ottoman soldiers posing with severed heads, others with them standing amid skulls within the dirt. The victims are reported to possess died in mass burnings and by drowning, torture, gas, poison, disease and starvation. Children were reported to possess been loaded into boats, taken bent sea and thrown overboard. Rape, too, was frequently reported.
As a candidate, Biden said that if he were elected "I pledge to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide and can make universal human rights a top priority for my administration."Similar pledges have gone unfulfilled before. When Obama was running for president, he declared during a lengthy statement that he shared "with Armenian Americans -- numerous of whom are descended from genocide survivor -- a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide."
But like presidents before him, the realities of diplomacy intervened once he took office. altogether eight years of his presidency, Obama avoided using "genocide" when commemorating the April event. With Turkey then positioned as a key partner within the fight against ISIS terrorists, the difficulty appeared even less palatable.
Some officials who served in Obama's administration, including his deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and then-US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, later voiced regret at not having taken the step. Power is Biden's nominee to steer the US Agency for International Development.
In 2019, the House and Senate passed a resolution recognizing the mass killings of Armenians from 1915 to 1923 as genocide. before its passage, the Trump administration had asked Republican senators to dam the unanimous consent request several times on the grounds that it could undercut negotiations with Turkey.
Trump attempted to cultivate a friendship with Erdoğan, whilst relations between Washington and Ankara soured over Turkey's purchase of a Russian-made defense system and alleged human rights abuses by Turkish-backed forces in Syria.
A group of quite 100 Republican and Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to Biden this month calling on him to formally recognize the Armenian genocide. The group was led by Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat. an outsized Armenian American community resides in and around Schiff's district in l. a. .