While the change would be largely symbolic, it is likely to strain ties with Turkey.
US President Joe Biden should officially acknowledge the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I as an act of genocide, sources said on Wednesday, a move likely to anger Turkey and further strain the already broken ties between the two NATO allies.
The move would be largely symbolic, but it would mean breaking away from decades of carefully calibrated White House language and coming at a time when Ankara and Washington are already battling a number of problems.
Biden will likely use the word “genocide” as part of a statement on April 24, when the victims’ annual commemorations are held around the world, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
“I understand that he has made the decision and will use the word genocide in his statement on Saturday,” said a source familiar with the matter. Sources warned that given the importance of bilateral ties with Turkey, Biden could choose not to use the deadline at the last minute.
The move was first reported in the Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous US officials.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that the White House will likely have “more to say” about the issue on Saturday, but declined to elaborate.
The State Department sent questions about the issue to the White House and the National Security Council had no comment beyond what Psaki said.
A year ago, while still running for president, Biden commemorated 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children who lost their lives in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and said he would support recognition efforts. of these crimes as genocide.
“Today we remember the atrocities facing the Armenian people in Metz Yeghern – the Armenian genocide. If elected, I pledge to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide and will make universal human rights a top priority, “he said on Twitter at the time.
Biden takes a harder line
Turkey admits that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in fighting with Ottoman forces during World War I, but disputes the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitutes genocide.
For decades, measures to recognize the Armenian genocide stagnant in the US Congress and US presidents have refrained from calling it so, hampered by concerns about relations with Turkey and the intense lobbying in Ankara.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has established a close relationship with former US President Donald Trump, but he has not spoken to Biden since he became president on January 20th.
While Turkish and US officials have been in talks since then, the Biden administration has stepped up pressure on Turkey by frequently expressing dissatisfaction with Ankara’s human rights record and the two sides’ concerns over a number of issues, including arms purchases. Russian by Turkey. Syria’s systems and policy differences remain.
Any move by Biden to recognize the mass killings as genocide will continue to affect already strained ties between NATO allies, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.
Ian Bremmer, founder of research and consulting firm Eurasia Group, said Biden’s expected move reflects a deteriorating relationship between NATO allies, but Erdogan’s response is likely to be limited.
“Erdogan is … unlikely to provoke the US with actions that could further undermine Turkey’s weak economy,” he said.
In 2019, the US Senate passed a non-binding resolution recognizing the killings as genocide, in a historic move that has deeply angered Turkey.
Representative Adam Schiff and a group of 100 bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to Biden this week urging him to follow his campaign commitment and “correct decades of mistakes.”