President Joe Biden formally recognized the Ottoman Empire’s mass killing of more than 1.5 million Armenians more than a century ago as genocide in a statement on Saturday.
The declaration was previewed earlier this week, and signals an effort by the Biden administration to address human rights by naming the atrocities that began in 1915 as genocide, which former sitting presidents in the United States have stopped short of doing.
“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 the statement issued Saturday marking the 106th anniversary of the beginning of the atrocities. “And we remember so that we remain ever vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms.”
Biden’s predecessors have steered away from demonstrating the courage to explicitly recognize the atrocities as genocide while in office, for fear of threatening ties with the NATO ally.
The Armenian National Committee of America said in a statement Saturday the president’s declaration “has ended a century-long era of American complicity in Turkey’s denials.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu was quick to criticize Biden’s remarks on Twitter.
“We entirely reject this statement,” he tweeted. “We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past. Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal to peace and justice.”
The Turkish foreign ministry on Saturday said the declaration “distorts the historical facts,” that it will “open a deep wound that undermines our mutual trust and friendship.”
Leading up to the Biden’s statement on Saturday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had also denied that the killings were genocide and sought to thwart the Biden’s recognition of the atrocities as such.
“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” Biden said, concluding his statement.