Biden recognizes atrocities against Armenians as genocide

FILE - In this April 15, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden speaks about Russia in the East Room of the White House in Washington. In recent days, Biden has piled new sanctions on Russia, announced he would withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan in less than five months and backed away from a campaign promise to sharply raise refugee admission caps. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)FILE - In this April 15, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden speaks about Russia in the East Room of the White House in Washington. In recent days, Biden has piled new sanctions on Russia, announced he would withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan in less than five months and backed away from a campaign promise to sharply raise refugee admission caps. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, second left, attends a memorial service at the monument to the victims of mass killings by Ottoman Turks, to commemorate the 106th anniversary of the massacre, in Yerevan, Armenia, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Armenians marked the anniversary of the death of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks, an event widely viewed by scholars as genocide, though Turkey refutes the claim. (Tigran Mehrabyan/PAN Photo via AP)Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, second left, attends a memorial service at the monument to the victims of mass killings by Ottoman Turks, to commemorate the 106th anniversary of the massacre, in Yerevan, Armenia, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Armenians marked the anniversary of the death of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks, an event widely viewed by scholars as genocide, though Turkey refutes the claim. (Tigran Mehrabyan/PAN Photo via AP)

The systematic killing and deportation of more than a million Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces in the early 20th century was “genocide,” the United States formally declared on Saturday, as President Joe Biden used that precise word after the White House had avoided it for decades for fear of alienating ally Turkey.

Turkey reacted with furor, with the foreign minister saying his country “will not be given lessons on our history from anyone.” A grateful Armenia said it appreciated Biden’s “principled position” as a step toward “the restoration of truth and historical justice.”

Biden was following through on a campaign promise he made a year ago Saturday — the annual commemoration of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day — to recognize that the events that began in 1915 were a deliberate effort to wipe out Armenians.

While previous presidents have offered sombre reflections of the dark moment in history, they have studiously avoided using the term genocide out of concern that it would complicate relations with Turkey, a NATO ally and important power in the Middle East.

But Biden campaigned on a promise to make human rights a central guidepost of his foreign policy. He argued last year that failing to call the atrocities against the Armenian people a genocide would pave the way for future mass atrocities. An estimated 2 million Armenians were deported — 1.5 million of whom were killed in the events known as Metz Yeghern.

“The American people honour all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” Biden said in a statement. “We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a letter to Biden that recognition of the genocide “is important not only in terms of respecting the memory of 1.5 million innocent victims, but also in preventing the repetition of such crimes.”

Turkish officials struck back immediately.

“We 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,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that “words cannot change history or rewrite it” and Turkey “completely rejected” Biden’s statement.

Minutes before Biden’s announcement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a message to the Armenian community and patriarch of the Armenian church calling for not allowing “the culture of coexistence” of the Muslim Turks and Christian Armenians to be forgotten. He said the issue has been “politicized by third parties and turned into a tool of intervention against our country.”

The U.S. Embassy and consulates in Turkey issued a demonstration alert, and announced their offices would be closed for routine services on Monday and Tuesday as a “precautionary measure.” They cautioned Americans to avoid areas around U.S. government buildings and exercise caution in locations where foreigners gather.

During a telephone call Friday, Biden had informed Erdogan of his plan to issue the statement, said a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to publicly discuss the private conversation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The U.S. and Turkish governments, in separate statements following Biden and Erdogan’s call, made no mention of the American plan to recognize the Armenian genocide. But the White House said Biden told Erdogan he wants to improve the two countries’ relationship and find “effective management of disagreements.” The two also agreed to hold a bilateral meeting at the NATO summit in Brussels in June.

In Armenia on Saturday, people streamed to the hilltop complex in Yerevan, the capital, that memorializes the victims. Many laid flowers around the eternal flame, creating a wall of blooms two meters (seven feet) high.

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Avet Adonts, speaking at the memorial before Biden issued his statement, said a U.S. president using the term genocide would “serve as an example for the rest of the civilized world.”

Biden’s call with Erdogan was his first since taking office more than three months ago. The delay had become a worrying sign in Ankara; Erdogan had good rapport with former President Donald Trump and had been hoping for a reset despite past friction with Biden.

Erdogan reiterated his long-running claims that the U.S. is supporting Kurdish fighters in Syria who are affiliated with the Iraq-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK. The PKK has led an insurgency against Turkey for more than three decades. In recent years, Turkey has launched military operations against PKK enclaves in Turkey and in northern Iraq and against U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters. The State Department has designated the PKK a terrorist organization but has argued with Turkey over the group’s ties to the Syrian Kurds.

Biden, during the campaign, drew ire from Turkish officials after an interview with The New York Times in which he spoke about supporting Turkey’s opposition against “autocrat” Erdogan. In 2019, Biden accused Trump of betraying U.S. allies, following Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, which paved the way for a Turkish military offensive against the Syrian Kurdish group. In 2014, when he was vice-president, Biden apologized to Erdogan after suggesting in a speech that Turkey helped facilitate the rise of the Islamic State group by allowing foreign fighters to cross Turkey’s border with Syria.

Lawmakers and Armenian American activists had lobbied Biden to make the genocide announcement on or before remembrance day. The closest that a U.S. president had come to recognizing the World War I-era atrocities as genocide was in 1981 when Ronald Reagan uttered the words “Armenian genocide” during a Holocaust Remembrance Day event. But he did not make it U.S. policy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, lamented that “the truth of these heinous crimes has too often been denied, its monstrosity minimized.”

“History teaches us that if we ignore its darkest chapters, we are destined to witness the horrors of the past be repeated,” she added.

Rep. Adam Schiff, also a California Democrat, praised Biden for following through on the pledge.

“For Armenian-Americans and everyone who believes in human rights and the truth, today marks an historic milestone: President Biden has defied Turkish threats and recognized the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians for what it was — the first genocide of the 20th Century,” Schiff said in a statement.

California is home to large concentrations of Armenian Americans.

Salpi Ghazarian, director of the University of Southern California’s Institute of Armenian Studies, said the recognition of genocide would resonate beyond Armenia and show Biden’s seriousness about respect for human rights as a central principle in his foreign policy.

“Within the United States and outside the United States, the American commitment to basic human values has been questioned now for decades,” she said. “It is very important for people in the world to continue to have the hope and the faith that America’s aspirational values are still relevant, and that we can in fact do several things at once. We can in fact carry on trade and other relations with countries while also calling out the fact that a government cannot get away with murdering its own citizens.”

___

Lee reported from Washington and Bilginsoy from Istanbul. Associated Press writer Avet Demourian in Yerevan, Armenia, contributed to this report.

Aamer Madhani, Matthew Lee And Zeynep Bilginsoy, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

GenocideJoe BidenUSA

Just Posted

Bella Coola Valley. (Scott Carrier photo)
Nuxalk Nation closes recreation, sports fisheries at Bella Coola due to COVID-19 concerns

Nobody is supposed to be travelling, said marine use manager Peter Siwallace

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

A Cariboo Regional District director and School District 27 trustee, Angie Delainey is also a fourth generation business owner in downtown Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Angie Delainey appointed Cariboo Regional District representative on regional board

Delainey and Steve Forseth represent the CRD at the North Central Local Government Association

Pauline Schmutz, 75, receives her COVID-19 vaccine from public health nurse Donna McKenzie on Tuesday, April 13 at the community clinic at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Additional COVID-19 vaccine clinics scheduled for Horsefly, Big Lake

Anyone 18 and over who has not received a vaccine yet is encouraged to register

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

The province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory Tuesday

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen of Abbotsford has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Most Read