ARCHIVE – Mevlüt Cavusoglu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, speaks at a press conference. Photo: – / Pool Turkish Foreign Ministry / AP / dpa
“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” said Biden in a message distributed by the White House on the commemoration day of the massacres on Saturday. During the election campaign, Biden had promised that the massacre of the Armenians would be recognized as genocide.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected Biden’s statement “in the sharpest form,” as the Anadolu agency reported. In addition, Biden’s statement, “who has neither legal nor moral authority to evaluate historical events, has no value”. Biden’s declaration that “distorted historical facts” left a deep wound that undermined mutual trust and friendship between the two countries. Anadolu reported that the US ambassador to Ankara was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Saturday evening.
The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu rejected the statement “completely”. You are based “only on populism,” he wrote on Twitter. «We have nothing to learn from anyone about our own past. Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal of peace and justice. ” Ankara had already warned the US government before Biden’s declaration that the massacre would be recognized as genocide.
The spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, also sharply condemned the statement. He recommended that the US look to its own past and present. Erdogan did not comment personally at first. Before Biden’s announcement, Erdogan had written to the Armenian patriarch in Turkey, Sahag Maschalian, on Saturday that he was thinking with respect to the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire who had lost their lives under “difficult conditions” in the First World War. The politicization of debates by third parties does not help.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan welcomed Biden’s words. “The Armenian people and all Armenians in the world received your message (…) with great enthusiasm,” he said, according to the announcement. Pashinyan spoke of “a powerful step on the path to truth and historical justice” and of “invaluable support for the descendants of the victims of the genocide”.
During the First World War, Armenians were systematically persecuted and, among other things, sent on death marches into the Syrian desert. Historians speak of hundreds of thousands up to 1.5 million victims. Turkey, as the successor to the Ottoman Empire, admits the deaths of 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians during the First World War and regrets the massacres. However, it strictly rejects classification as genocide.
The US felt obliged to prevent similar atrocities from ever happening again, Biden said. Persecution survivors have been forced to find new homes and new lives all over the world. The Armenian people survived with “strength and resilience” but never forgot the tragic story. «We honor their story. We see this pain. We confirm the story. We don’t do this to assign blame, but to make sure what happened never repeats itself. “
The International Auschwitz Committee welcomed the decision. “In the memory of their own fate, survivors of the Holocaust have felt a close bond with the Armenian people for many years,” said the executive vice-president of the committee, Christoph Heubner, on Saturday evening. Biden’s “recognition and naming of the genocide” is an important gesture for Holocaust survivors and a signal to the Turkish government to face up to its historical responsibility.
As a presidential candidate, Biden had already spoken of the «genocide» of the Armenians on the memorial day a year ago. Biden emphasized at the time: “Silence is complicity.” Also as a candidate, Biden had also announced a tougher course against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he called an “autocrat” who would pay a price for his behavior. In an interview with the New York Times in January of last year, Biden spoke out in favor of supporting the Turkish opposition.
A few days ago, more than 100 congressmen from both Democrats and Republicans wrote a letter calling on Biden to “recognize the genocide of the Armenians clearly and directly in their April 24 statement.” They complained that US presidents had been silent for decades, while other heads of state and government would refer to “the first genocide of the 20th century” as such. According to US media reports, then US President Ronald Reagan described the massacre of the Armenians as genocide in 1981, but none of his successors.
The US Congress had already recognized the massacre of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide in 2019. The administration of then US President Donald Trump then emphasized that the legally non-binding resolution did not change the attitude of the US government. Biden’s predecessor Trump had spoken of “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century”, but avoided the word genocide – like other US presidents.