On Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day marking the 106th anniversary of the beginning of the massacre, President Joe Biden became the first US president to officially recognize the murder of approximately one million Christian Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I, lasting from 1915-1923. 32 countries around the world currently recognize the Armenian genocide.
In addition to the murders, around 100,000 to 200,000 Armenian women and children were forcibly converted to Islam and integrated into Muslim households. Turkey denies that the deportation of Armenians was a genocide or wrongful act.
The statement fulfills a campaign promise, one that remained unfulfilled by Obama. The move raises tensions with Turkey, a NATO ally. Biden’s decision may have been influenced by a letter written by a group of more than 100 Republican and Democratic lawmakers earlier this month calling on him to formally recognize the Armenian genocide.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted his displeasure. “We are not going to take lessons about our history from anyone. Political opportunism is the biggest betrayal of peace and justice. We completely reject this statement that is only based on populism,” he said in a tweet.
In a gesture clearly intended to appease Turkey, Biden made his first phone call to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the announcement.
The Turkish foreign ministry summoned US Ambassador David Satterfield to express its displeasure, noting that Biden’s decision caused “a wound in relations that is difficult to repair,” the Anadolu state news agency reported.
Relations with Turkey were also disturbed when the American forces in the Syrian Civil War openly allied with the Kurdish YPG fighters and support them militarily, considering the group to be a key element in fighting ISIS. Several Kurdish groups are considered terrorist organizations by Turkey and were targeted by Turkish forces in Syria.
Biden also disturbed Turkish President Erdogan in 2014 when he was vice president after suggesting in a speech that Turkey helped facilitate the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) by allowing foreign fighters to cross Turkey’s border with Syria. Biden issued an apology.