WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Saturday formally acknowledged the systematic killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 as an act of “genocide,” a long-sought declaration amongst Armenian-Americans that would additional pressure U.S.-Turkey relations.
“Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination,” Biden mentioned in a press release on Saturday, marking Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. He emphasised the want to acknowledge and keep in mind such atrocities “so that the horrors of what happened are never lost to history.”
“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” Biden mentioned. “We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.
Biden promised during the campaign to label the killings a genocide. But previous presidents have reneged on similar pledges amid fears it would jeopardize U.S.-Turkey relations.
The move was both symbolic, because it carries no legal repercussions, and weighty, because of the potential geopolitical fallout and because it will resonate so deeply with the Armenian-American community.
“President Biden’s affirmation of the Armenian Genocide marks a pivotal milestone in the arc of history in defense of human rights,” Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, said in a statement Saturday. Biden has ended “a century of denial,” he said, in a decision that “recommits the United States to the worldwide trigger of genocide prevention.”
The Armenian genocide started in 1915 throughout World War I, as Turkish leaders started to homicide and deport a whole bunch of hundreds of Armenians from the Ottoman Empire. While the modern-day Turkish authorities has taken steps to deal with the atrocities, it has refused to acknowledge the scope of the killings and disputes it was a genocide.
Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat whose California district is house to many Armenian-Americans, mentioned he was heartened that Biden’s recognition got here whereas “there are still some genocide survivors alive to witness it.”
Biden’s “has cast aside decades of shameful silence and half-truths, and the broken promises of so many of his predecessors,” Schiff mentioned.
For years, Turkey had efficiently deployed a military of high-priced lobbyists to cease Washington from labeling the mass slaughter of Armenians as a genocide. In 2018, two of former President Barack Obama mentioned it was a mistake for his administration to not acknowledge the genocide.
“Every year there was a reason not to,” Ben Rhodes, who served as Obama’s deputy nationwide safety adviser, mentioned throughout a podcast interview. “Turkey was vital to some issue that we were dealing with, or there was some dialogue between Turkey and the Armenian government about the past.”
Declaration might ‘hurt ties’ with Turkey
Earlier this week, Turkey’s international minister Mevlut Cavusoglu mentioned Biden would “harm ties” if he made the genocide declaration.
“Statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties,” Cavusoglu instructed the Turkish broadcaster Haberturk. “If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs,” he mentioned.
That argument appears to have misplaced its punch. The U.S.-Turkey alliance has deeply frayed in recent times, notably after Turkey’s 2019 invasion of Syria. Another flashpoint: Erdogan’s determination to maneuver ahead with Turkey’s determination to buy a Russian missile system, in the face of fierce objections from Washington.
“Thanks to the hostility Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has engendered through his foreign policy and human rights abuses, there is little desire in Washington to defer to Turkish sensibilities on virtually anything,” mentioned Alan Makovsky, an professional on Turkey and former State Department official.
Makovsky, now with the Center for American Progress, a liberal suppose tank, mentioned Biden’s declaration is not going to have a significant influence on U.S.-Turkey relations.
“Turkey will raise a rhetorical fuss for a few days and perhaps delay acting on some routine requests from the U.S. military,” he mentioned. “But there are too many substantive problems on the U.S.-Turkish plate for Ankara to allow this recognition to make a major difference.”
Biden spoke with Erdogan on Friday, the first dialog between the two heads of state. The White House mentioned Biden expressed “his interest in a constructive bilateral relationship” and “effective management of disagreements.” The White House account didn’t point out the genocide subject however mentioned Biden and Erdogan agreed to fulfill on margins of a NATO Summit in June.
As Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day approached, members of Congress and Armenian-Americans ramped up stress on Biden to satisfy his marketing campaign promise.
“Administrations of both parties have been silent on the truth of the Armenian genocide,” greater than two dozen senators wrote in March 19 letter to Biden. “We urge you to break this pattern of complicity by officially recognizing that the Armenian genocide was a genocide.”
The House and Senate handed a decision in 2019 recognizing the Armenian genocide, one other signal of Turkey’s waning affect in Washington – a minimum of on that subject. Lawmakers have mentioned they can’t fathom given the atrocities have been dedicated by Ottoman Empire, not modern-day Turkey,
“The Ottoman Empire killed more than one million Armenians. It was a genocide that every Armenian I know has learned about from his or her parents or grandparents,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., mentioned in a press release Friday.
“Acknowledging this historic atrocity isn’t any reflection on right now’s Turkey, solely those that refuse to confess its actuality,” he mentioned.
This article initially appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden recognizes Armenian ‘genocide’ by Ottomans starting in 1915