The president of the United States, Joe Biden, has recognized this Saturday as “genocide” the extermination of more than one and a half million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire when 106 years have passed since the beginning of the massacre. With this qualifier, the Democrat breaks with his predecessors in the White House, who avoided calling it genocide for fear of damaging the relationship between the United States and Turkey. Biden’s announcement escalates the tension between the two countries, aggravated after Ankara bought Russian military equipment, cases of human rights violations and military interventions in Syria and Libya.
“Every year, on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Armenian genocide of the Ottoman era and we recommit to ensure that this atrocity does not happen again,” Biden said in a statement, becoming the first president in the United States. the history of the United States in classifying the massacre of Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as genocide. Ronald Reagan made an allusion in 1981 to the Armenian genocide during a statement on the Holocaust, but backed down under pressure from Turkey, Washington’s current partner in the NATO. In 2019, the US Congress passed the resolutions to recognize the genocide for the first time, but Donald Trump – who had good relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan – did not take them into consideration.
According to the White House statement, Biden called Erdogan on Friday, but did not mention the massacres of the early 20th century. The US president expressed interest in a “constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements.” The Turkish transcript of the call narrates that Erdogan raised his objections about US support for Kurdish forces in Syria, whom Ankara considers terrorist groups.
Turkey, the heir state to the Ottoman Empire, has acknowledged that many Armenians were killed in fighting with the Ottoman forces, but refuses to call it genocide and questions the succulent casualty figures. They justify that they were times of war, where there were deaths on both sides, that the dead Armenians numbered 300,000, when historians estimate that they exceeded one and a half million.
Armenian-American groups had for years lobbied for Washington to call the massacre “genocide” and this Saturday they celebrated the measure. “President Biden’s statement on the Armenian genocide marks a critical moment in the arc of human rights history,” said Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America. “By staunchly opposing a century of denial, President Biden has charted a new course,” he added in a statement.