WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Joe Biden on Saturday (April 24) recognised the 1915 killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide, a watershed moment for descendants of the hundreds of thousands of dead as he defied decades of pressure by Turkey.
Biden became the first US president to use the word genocide in a customary statement on the anniversary, a day after informing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would go ahead with this step and seeking to limit the expected furore from the Nato ally.
“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.
“And we remember so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms,” he said.
The statement is a massive victory for Armenia and its extensive diaspora. Starting with Uruguay in 1965, nations including France, Germany, Canada and Russia have recognised the genocide but a US statement has been a paramount goal that proved elusive under other presidents until Biden.
Biden said his statement was “not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.” Biden made the decision “in a very principled way focused on the merits of human rights, and not for any reason beyond that, including placing blame,” a senior US official said.
Biden took office vowing to put a new focus on human rights and democracy in the wake of his volatile predecessor Donald Trump, who befriended authoritarians and, despite breaking plenty of foreign policy precedents, declined to recognise the Armenian genocide.
Explaining Biden’s thinking, the administration official also alluded to the Democratic president’s outspokenness on systemic racism in the United States.
Across the world, “people are beginning to acknowledge and address and grapple with the painful historical facts in their own countries. It’s certainly something that we are doing here in the United States,” she said.
A century of waiting
As many as 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed from 1915 to