Joe Biden set to formally recognize Armenian genocide, officials say

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A family of Armenian deportees is seen in this undated handout photo taken by Armin Wegner, a German 2nd Lieutenant stationed in the Ottoman Empire. Wegner was investigating reports of Armenian massacres by taking photographs of deportation camps, primarily in the Syrian desert. A U.S. congressional panel voted on March 4, 2010 to label as "genocide" the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador from Washington. Turkey accepts that many Armenians were killed by Ottoman forces but denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide -- a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments. BLACK AND WHITE ONLY REUTERS/Armenian National Institute/Courtesy of Sybil Stevens/Wegner Collection/Deutches Literaturarchiv, Marbach & United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/Handout (TURKEY - Tags: CIVIL UNREST) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

Joe Biden is expected to formally recognize the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during the first world war as an act of genocide, according to US officials.

The anticipated move – something Biden had pledged to do as a candidate – could further complicate an already tense relationship with the Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Administration officials had not informed Turkey as of Wednesday, and Biden could still change his mind, according to one official who spoke to the Associated Press.

Lawmakers and Armenian-American activists are lobbying Biden to make the announcement on or before Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which will be marked on Saturday.

One possibility is that Biden would include the acknowledgement of genocide in the annual remembrance day proclamation typically issued by presidents. Biden’s predecessors have avoided using “genocide” in the proclamation commemorating the dark moment in history.

Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during the first world war, but contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.

A bipartisan group of more than 100 House members on Wednesday signed a letter to Biden calling on him to become the first US president to formally recognize the atrocities as genocide.

“The shameful silence of the United States government on the historic fact of the Armenian genocide has gone on for too long, and it must end,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to follow through on your commitments, and speak the truth.”

Turkey’s foreign minister has warned the Biden administration that recognition would “harm” US-Turkey ties.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal first reported that Biden is preparing to acknowledge the genocide.

Should Biden follow through, he’ll almost certainly face pushback from Turkey, which has successfully pressed previous presidents to sidestep the issue.

The relationship between Biden and Erdoğan is off to a chilly start. More than three months into his presidency, Biden has yet to speak with him.

Biden drew ire from Turkish officials during his presidential campaign last year, after an interview with the New York Times in which he spoke about supporting Turkey’s opposition against “autocrat” Erdoğan. Still, Turkey was hopeful of resetting the relationship. Erdoğan enjoyed a warm relationship with former Donald Trump, who didn’t give him any lectures about Turkey’s human rights record.

“In the past, the arm-twisting from Turkey was, ‘Well we’re such a good friend that you should remain solid with us on this’,” said Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, whose members have started a campaign to encourage Biden to recognize the genocide. “But they’re proving to be not such a good friend.”

Hamparian said he’s hopeful that Biden will follow through. He noted that the sting of Barack Obama not following through on his 2008 campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian genocide still lingers for many in the Armenian diaspora.

Source: The Guardian

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