With one weighty word, President Joe Biden made history on Saturday.
Recognizing the historical massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War One as genocide, Biden went further than any previous occupant of the White House and departed from decades of carefully calibrated language on the subject.
Biden’s statement was greeted with praise in the Armenian capital, Yerevan — and among the country’s diaspora, whose activists have long campaigned for such recognition — but met with anger in Ankara, where Turkey has denied that the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-17 should be considered a genocide.
“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” Biden said in a statement on Saturday, marking the annual Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
As a presidential candidate, Biden last year commemorated those killed in the final throes of the Ottoman Empire, modern Turkey’s predecessor, and pledged to back efforts to recognize the deaths as genocide if elected.
Earlier this week, Representative Adam Schiff and a group of 100 bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to Biden urging him to “right decades of wrongs.” This follows a 2019 non-binding unanimous resolution passed by the Senate in favor of recognizing the killings as genocide.
The president’s decision to fulfil his campaign pledge now in office will prove largely symbolic, according to political experts. But the move does signal a return to the championing of human rights from the White House, they said, although likely to infuriate America’s NATO ally.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Adela Suliman