“Over the decades, Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic story that brought so many of their ancestors to our coast. We honor their story. We see this pain. We confirm the story. We’re not doing this to blame, but to make sure what happened is never repeated. “
For decades, legislators in Congress were willing to recognize genocide, but sitting presidents historically were not. In a Memorial Day statement last year, Biden said he was “proud” of his role in the Senate recognizing the Armenian genocide and of his approval of the 2019 resolutions in both houses of Congress that did the same.
The United States is now part of a group of 30 countries that have recognized the Armenian Genocide, according to the Armenian National Institute. While recognizing the “tragic experience” of the Armenians, Turkey claims that the number of those who died between 1915 and 1923 was excessive and denies characterizing the events as genocide.
The largely symbolic declaration followed a phone call between Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday. In the readings of their first call, neither the White House nor Ankara said whether Biden had directly addressed his plan to recognize the Armenian genocide. However, Biden told Erdogan that he intended to acknowledge the genocide, the Associated Press reportedciting a person who is familiar with the conversation.
In recent weeks, legislators have increasingly expressed the wish that Biden take this step. On Wednesday, more than 100 representatives called on Biden to “recognize the Armenian genocide clearly and directly”. Last month, 38 senators signed a letter that also urged Biden to classify the events as genocide.
“The shameful silence of the United States government on the historic fact of the Armenian genocide has lasted too long and must end. We urge you to honor your commitments and speak the truth.” The House legislature wrote a letter to the President.
In the past, US presidents have danced around the subject and did not want to disrupt relations between NATO allies. Erdogan was determined not to label World War I events as genocide, and in 2019 Erdogan’s spokesman Fahrettin Altun said such recognition would “endanger the future of [U.S.-Turkish] bilateral relations. ”In 2014 the Turkish President called the events“ inhuman ”.
“Declarations that are not legally binding are of no use, but they harm relations. If the United States wants to worsen relations, the decision is up to them,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Haberturk on Tuesday. according to Reuters.
“Lies not only distort history, they also claim innocent lives,” said the Turkish Foreign Ministry tweeted on Saturday. “We have not forgotten our colleagues tortured by the Armenian terror and we will never forget them!”
Varuzhan Nersesyan, the Armenian ambassador to the US, praised Biden’s move to CNN on Saturday morning and said it would help prevent future genocides.
“This marks the end of the long history of denialism. This means for me that the US is on the side of justice and human rights and that for me personally it means that justice and humanity will prevail, ”said Nersesyan.
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama pledged to recognize the Armenian genocide if elected, even though his administration ultimately did not – a decision his ambassador to the United States made. Ultimately expressed repentance for 2018.
President Donald Trump refused to classify the Armenian genocide as such, even though both chambers of Congress passed mostly resolutions on it in 2019. Instead, Trump called it “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century”.
In 1981 President Ronald Reagan referred to the “Armenian genocide” in a statement recalling the victims of the Holocaust.
Ben Leonard contributed to this report.