By Humeyra Pamuk WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden said on Saturday that the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 amounted to genocide, a landmark statement that angered Turkey and is intended to further strain the frayed ties between the two NATO allies. The largely symbolic move, which breaks through decades of carefully calibrated White House language, will likely be celebrated by the Armenian diaspora in the United States, but it comes at a time when Ankara and Washington have deep political disagreements over a number of topics. . Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey “completely rejects” the US decision which, according to him, was based “solely on populism.” Biden’s message was received with “great enthusiasm” by the people of Armenia and Armenians around the world, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote in a letter to the US President. In his statement, Biden said that the American people honor “all Armenians who died in the genocide that began 106 years ago today.” “Over the decades, Armenian immigrants have enriched America in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history … We honor their history. We see that pain. We affirm history. We do this not to blame but to make sure. that what happened is never repeated, “Biden said. In comments seeking to soften the blow, a senior administration official told reporters that Washington encouraged Armenia and Turkey to seek reconciliation and continues to view Ankara as a critical NATO ally. For decades, measures recognizing the Armenian genocide stalled in the US Congress and US presidents have refrained from calling it that, hampered by concerns about relations with Turkey and intense lobbying by Ankara. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire died in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but questions the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute genocide. ‘RELATIONSHIPS ALREADY IN SHAME’ A year ago, while still a presidential candidate, Biden commemorated the 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children who lost their lives in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire and said he would support efforts to recognize those murders as genocide. Ties between Ankara and Washington have been strained over issues ranging from Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems, on which it was the subject of US sanctions, to political differences in Syria, human rights and a court case against the majority state of Turkey. owned by Halkbank. Biden’s statement follows a non-binding United States Senate resolution unanimously adopted in 2019 recognizing the killings as genocide. Previous US presidents have abandoned campaign promises to acknowledge the Armenian genocide for fear of damaging US-Turkish relations, said Nicholas Danforth, a non-resident member of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy. “With relationships already in shambles, there was nothing stopping Biden from moving forward,” Danforth said. “Ankara has no allies left in the US government to push against this and Washington is no longer concerned about whether it will anger Turkey.” Erdogan had established a close bond with former US President Donald Trump, but since Biden took office, Washington has become more vocal about Turkey’s human rights record. It has also stood firm in its demand that Ankara ditch the Russian defense systems. Biden had also delayed having a phone conversation with Erdogan until Friday, seen largely as a cold shoulder to the Turkish president, when he informed him of his decision to recognize the massacres as genocide. Saturday’s announcement was criticized by the Turkish government and several opposition politicians. Turkey’s presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said Biden’s comments “only repeat the accusations of those whose only agenda is enmity towards our country.” “We advise the President of the United States to look at the past and present (of his country),” Kalin wrote on Twitter.
In landmark move, Biden says 1915 Armenian massacres constitute genocide By Reuters