Joe Biden has become the first United States president to recognise as an act of “genocide” the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
In a statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on Saturday, Biden said: “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.
“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” his statement reads.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry rejected and denounced Biden’s statement “in the strongest terms”.
“This statement of the US, which distorts the historical facts, will never be accepted in the conscience of the Turkish people, and will open a deep wound that undermines our mutual trust and friendship,” the ministry said.
“We call on the US president to correct this grave mistake.”
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the US statement was “based solely on populism”, while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused “third parties” of seeking to politicise the debate.
“The politicisation of the discussions that should be held by historians and used as a tool of intervention against our country by third parties has benefited no one,” Erdogan said in a letter to the Armenian patriarch in Istanbul.
“Words cannot change or rewrite history.”
We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past. Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal to peace and justice.
We entirely reject this statement based solely on populism.#1915Events
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) April 24, 2021
In a letter to Biden, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Armenians around the world welcomed his statement.
“I highly appreciate your principled position, which is a powerful step on the way to acknowledging the truth, historical justice, and an invaluable of support for the descendants of the victims of the Armenian Genocide,” Pashinyan wrote.
Pashinyan also tweeted that it was “an important day for all Armenians”.
“The US has once again demonstrated its unwavering commitment to protecting human rights and universal values,” he said.
It is an important day for all Armenians. Following the resolutions adopted by US Congress in 2019, President Biden honored the memory of victims of the Armenian Genocide. The US has once again demonstrated its unwavering commitment to protecting human rights and universal values
— Nikol Pashinyan (@NikolPashinyan) April 24, 2021
The foreign ministry of Azerbaijan, which fought Armenian forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region last year, called Biden’s statement “unfortunate” and said it “distorted the historical facts” of what occurred.
“Those who politicise the so-called ‘Armenian genocide’ are silent on the massacre of more than 500,000 people by Armenian armed groups at that time,” the ministry said.
Faik Oztrak, Turkish opposition CHP party spokesman
In a statement, Oztrak said the Biden administration’s description of the killings as a genocide “has gone down in history as a great mistake”.
“Recent statements against Turkey and measures against our country … show the point to which Turkey has been brought by the short-sighted foreign policy carried out by the government.”
Garo Paylan, Armenian MP in Turkish parliament
“When Turkey confronts the Armenian genocide, it will no longer matter what other countries or parliaments have to say,” Paylan said.
“We need to bring the pain of the Armenian people, to the land where it belongs, to Turkey. We have to face the pain of the Armenian people and we must relieve this pain through justice. The Armenian people are waiting for justice.”
Nancy Pelosi, US congresswoman
Pelosi, the Democratic House majority leader, said “our hearts are full of joy that President Biden has taken the historic step” of recognising the killings as an act of genocide.
“To commemorate this solemn day of remembrance, let us pledge to always stand strong against hatred and violence wherever we see it and recommit to building a future of hope, peace and freedom for all the world’s children,” she said in a statement.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US congresswoman
Ocasio-Cortez said the US recognition was “long overdue”.
“Truth-telling and full acknowledgment of injustice can be one of the most important steps towards healing,” she tweeted.
Truth-telling and full acknowledgment of injustice can be one of the most important steps towards healing.
Acknowledging the Armenian genocide is long overdue, and I hope this day brings some degree of peace to impacted families and communities as we move forward together. https://t.co/2HCRViIRqi
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 24, 2021
Ted Lieu, US congressman
Lieu said past US presidents “were afraid to recognize the Armenian Genocide” – and thanked Biden “for getting it done”.
“Your courageous leadership is making the world a better place,” Lieu said on Twitter.
Prior American presidents were afraid to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Thank you @POTUS for getting it done. Your courageous leadership is making the world a better place. I coauthored the Armenian Genocide resolution every year. It will have a new, special meaning this year. https://t.co/kTXVcI4Hqw
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) April 24, 2021