President Joe Biden makes remarks and participates in the Virtual Summit of Leaders on Climate Session 5: Economic Opportunities for Climate Action from the White House in Washington, DC, on April 23, 2021.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden on Saturday recognized the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces in the early 20th century as genocide, a historic, though largely symbolic, move likely to strain already-fulfilled relations with Turkey.
Biden’s declaration is a major break with past U.S. administrations, who have avoided calling crimes genocide out of concerns over the alienation of Turkey, an important NATO ally and an influential force in the Middle East. Turkey has disputed the killings as genocide.
“Every year on this day we remember the lives of all those who died in the Armenian genocide of the Ottoman era and we pledge to prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again,” Biden said on the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide in Armenia.
As a candidate, Biden vowed last year to make the declaration, which is widely supported by human rights groups and Armenians. The Trump administration has refrained from recognizing the events as genocide, instead of labeling them as “mass atrocities”.
People lay flowers at the memorial complex of the Armenian Genocide on the hill of Citsernakaberd on the Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, which commemorates the victims of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
Hayk Bagdasarjan TASS | Getty Images
Following the arrests of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople – now known as Istanbul – by Ottoman authorities, some 1.5 million Armenians were killed in events known as the Meds Yeghern between 1915 and 1923.
“A world that is not polluted by everyday vicious fanaticism and intolerance, in which human rights are respected and in which all people are able to continue their lives with dignity and security,” Biden said. “Let us renew our shared determination to prevent future atrocities from happening anywhere in the world. And to continue healing and reconciliation for all people in the world.”
Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs he said on Saturday that it was a statement from the Biden administration would “open a deep wound that undermines our mutual trust and friendship.”
Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, by phone call Friday, agreed to hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in June.
“This is an important day for all Armenians. Following the resolutions adopted by the US Congress in 2019, President Biden honored the memory of the victims of the Armenian genocide,” Armenian Prime Minister Nicole Pashinyan wrote. in a tweet on Saturday.
“The United States has once again demonstrated its unwavering commitment to the protection of human rights and universal values,” Pashinyan wrote.
Read the full White House statement:
Every year on this day we commemorate the lives of all those who died in the Armenian genocide of the Ottoman era and we pledge to prevent such an atrocity from happening again. Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by the Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched until their deaths in an extermination campaign. We pay tribute to the victims of Meds Yeghern so that the horrors of what happened will never be lost in history. And we remember to always be vigilant against the corrosive influence of hatred in all its forms.
Of those who survived, most were forced to find new homes and new lives around the world, including the United States. With strength and resilience, the Armenian people survived and rebuilt their community. Over the decades, Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We respect their story. We see that pain. We confirm the history. We do this not to cast the blame, but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.
Today, as we mourn the lost, let us look to the future – to the world we want to build for our children. A world that is not polluted by everyday malice and intolerance, in which human rights are respected and in which all people are able to continue their lives with dignity and security. Let us renew our shared determination to prevent future atrocities from happening anywhere in the world. And we strive for healing and reconciliation for all people in the world.
The American people pay tribute to all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began today 106 years ago.