In historic move, Biden says 1915 massacres of Armenians constitute genocide

Armenia

President Joe Biden on Saturday plans to follow through on a campaign pledge to formally recognize that atrocities committed against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire more than a century ago in modern-day Turkey were genocide, according to USA officials familiar with the president's deliberations.

The largely symbolic move, breaking away from decades of carefully calibrated language from the White House, was welcomed by the Armenian diaspora in the United States, but comes at a time when Ankara and Washington grapple with deep policy disagreements over a host of issues.

"If the U.S. President uses the term genocide, it will be an important step", Armenian deputy Foreign Minister Avet Adonts said at the memorial on Saturday.

For decades, measures recognizing the Armenian genocide stalled in the U.S. Congress and most U.S. presidents have refrained from calling it that, stymied by concerns about relations with Turkey and intense lobbying by Ankara.

"Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring", Biden said in a statement.

'We must never forget or remain silent about this horrific and systematic campaign of extermination, ' Biden said in a statement on April 24, 2020.

In a letter Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives urged Biden to become the first U.S. president to recognize the killings as genocide.

"And we reaffirm with them our commitment to a world free of discrimination and persecution, where everyone can feel safe".

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Biden, whose call to Erdogan to inform him of the genocide recognition was their first conversation since the U.S. leader took office three months ago, signaled he hoped to contain the fallout.

Biden had also delayed having a telephone 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. An estimated 2 million Armenians were deported and 1.5 million were killed in the events known as Metz Yeghern.

Despite the tense relations, Erdogan and Biden are due to meet in June on the sidelines of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels.

A Turkish statement on the call similarly stressed the positive, saying Erdogan and Biden agreed on "the importance of working together".

In response to the USA recognition, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an announcement saying "Israel recognizes the awful suffering and the tragedy of the Armenian people".

Turkish pressure has not stopped some major countries, such as France and Germany, from declaring the episode to have been genocide, but many states have held back from fully official recognition. In recent years, Turkey has launched military operations against PKK enclaves in northern Iraq and against USA -allied Syrian Kurdish fighters.

"Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history", Biden said. "But this is the only way towards reconciliation and to lasting peace between countries", the MEP said.

"This principled stand represents a powerful setback to Turkey's century-long obstruction of justice for this crime, and its ongoing hostility and aggression against the Armenian people", he said.

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