Biden expects to recognize massacre of Armenians as genocide

© Reuters. US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan at the White House

By Humeyra Pamuk, Trevor Hunnicutt and Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden is expected to formally recognize the Ottoman Empire’s WWI massacre of Armenians as an act of genocide, sources said on Wednesday, a move that could infuriate Turkey and strain even more the already frayed ties between the two NATO allies.

The move would be largely symbolic, but would mean breaking away from decades of carefully calibrated White House language and come at a time when Ankara and Washington are already at odds on a range of issues.

Biden will likely use the word “genocide” as part of an April 24 statement at annual commemorations for victims around the world, three sources familiar with the matter said.

“I understand that he made the decision and that he will use the word genocide in his statement on Saturday,” said a source familiar with the matter. Sources have warned that given the importance of bilateral ties with Turkey, Biden could always choose not to use the term at the last minute.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday that the White House would likely have “more to say” on the matter on Saturday, but declined to give further details.

The State Department referred questions on the matter to the White House, and the National Security Council made no comment beyond what Psaki said.

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 final years of the Ottoman Empire and said he would support efforts to recognize the killings as genocide.

“Today we remember the atrocities suffered by the Armenian people in the Yeghern of Metz – the Armenian genocide. If elected, I pledge to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide and will make universal human rights a priority absolute, ”he said on Twitter at The Time.

Turkey admits that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but disputes the figures and denies that the murders were systematically orchestrated and constitute genocide.

For decades, measures recognizing the Armenian genocide stalled in the US Congress and US presidents have refrained from calling it so, stifled by concerns about relations with Turkey and intense lobbying from Ankara.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had forged close ties with former US President Donald Trump, but he has yet to speak to Biden since he became president on January 20.

While Turkish and US officials have had talks since then, the Biden administration has stepped up pressure on Turkey by frequently expressing its displeasure with Ankara’s human rights record and the rift. between the two sides on a multitude of issues, including the purchase of Russian arms by Turkey. the differences between systems and policies in Syria remain.

Any move by Biden to recognize the mass killings as genocide will further damage the already strained ties between NATO allies, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

Ian Bremmer, founder of research and consultancy firm Eurasia Group, said Biden’s expected move reflected the deterioration of relations between NATO allies, but Erdogan’s response would likely be limited.

“Erdogan is … unlikely to provoke the United States with actions that could further undermine the weakness of the Turkish economy,” he said.

In 2019, the US Senate passed a non-binding resolution recognizing the killings as genocide, in a landmark move that deeply angered Turkey.

Representative Adam Schiff and a group of 100 bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to Biden this week, urging him to follow through on his campaign pledge and “right decades of wrongs.”