US President Joseph Biden tells it like it is and calls the massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during World War I “a genocide.”
Biden made his announcement Saturday, on the day Armenians worldwide mark Genocide Remembrance Day. 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 said.
On the other hand, Turkey, a US regional ally and NATO member, has dubbed Biden's move as pure political opportunism and summoned the US ambassador to convey Ankara's rejection of the term. Biden had notified his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of his decision during a phone call on Friday.
The US President went on: And we remember, so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms ... The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today ... We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated, he added.
Biden’s words came amid a growing rift between the US and Turkey, who has long acknowledged the deaths but steadfastly denied that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry rejected Biden’s declaration as being without any “scholarly and legal basis” and said the conditions required to describe the events as a “genocide” are not met under international law.
“The nature of the events of 1915 does not change according to the current political motives of the politicians or domestic political considerations. Such an attitude serves only a vulgar distortion of history,” the ministry said in a statement.
And Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also tweeted: “We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past.”
Already 56 years ago, Uruguay became the first country ever to call it a genocide, through the Resolution of the General Assembly of Uruguay of April 22, 1965 which said: This year 1965 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most terrible genocides that history has known. In the lands of the Near East, in what was the old and already decadent Ottoman Empire, the pilgrimage to the death of the Armenian people, whose construction had previously determined such a young and ruthless nucleus of politicians. And the text also addressed the issue of systematic killings: ... an entire town was condemned to die. It was intended to dispose of a minority in a country, which was then more than a million people, and it was intended to be done through the process of physically annihilating all its members.
Armenians, who marked Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day with ceremonies and rallies on Saturday, have for years appealed to the US and other countries around the world to recognise the killings as a genocide.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan welcomed Biden’s statement on Saturday, saying “the US has once again demonstrated its unwavering commitment to protecting human rights and universal values.”
In 2019, the US Congress passed a symbolic resolution recognizing the “Armenian genocide”, but then-President Donald Trump rejected the measure.
Earlier on Saturday, Turkish parliamentary speaker Mustafa Sentop said recognising the killings as genocide would be “a political statement with no legal basis”.
Turkish presidential spokesperson Fahrettin Altun also said this week that the designation would be “a slander that has no connection with the facts and is only fuelled by political calculations”.
“It is an emotional, irrational and illegitimate accusation,” Altun said.
US-Turkish relations have been strained in recent years over a number of issues, including Ankara’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems.