US President Joe Biden on Saturday recognized the 1915 killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide, a watershed moment for descendants of the hundreds of thousands of dead as he defied decades of pressure by Turkey.
Biden became the first US president to use the word genocide in a statement on the anniversary, a day after informing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the decision and seeking to limit the furor from the NATO ally.
“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. “We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame, but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
The statement is a massive victory for Armenia and its extensive diaspora. Starting with Uruguay in 1965, nations including France, Germany, Canada and Russia have recognized the genocide, but a US statement has been a paramount goal that proved elusive under previous presidents.
Erdogan, in a statement to the Armenian patriarch in Istanbul, said debates “should be held by historians” and not “politicized by third parties.”
“Words cannot change or rewrite history,” Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter moments after Biden’s statement. “We will not take lessons from anyone on our history.”
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs later summoned US Ambassador David Satterfield to express its displeasure, saying that Biden’s decision caused “a wound in relations that is difficult to repair,” the Anadolu state news agency reported.
Explaining Biden’s thinking, a US administration official pointed to the Democratic president’s vows to put a new priority on human rights and highlighted his outspokenness on systemic racism in the US.
Across the world, “people are beginning to acknowledge and address and grapple with the painful historical facts in their own countries. It’s certainly something that we are doing here in the United States,” the official said.
As many as 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed from 1915 to 1917 during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, which suspected the Christian minority of conspiring with adversary Russia in World War I.
Armenian populations were rounded up and deported into the desert of Syria on death marches in which many were shot, poisoned or fell victim to disease, according to accounts at the time by foreign diplomats.
Turkey, which emerged as a secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, acknowledges that 300,000 Armenians might have died, but strongly rejects that it was genocide, saying they perished in strife and famine in which many Turks also died.
Recognition has been a top priority for Armenia and Armenian Americans, with calls for compensation and property restoration over what they call Meds Yeghern — the Great Crime — and appeals for more support against Turkish-backed neighbor Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Biden’s statement “distorted the historical facts about the events of 1915” and echoed Turkey’s call for the killings to be “studied by historians, not politicians.”
Outgoing Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan thanked Biden for his “powerful step towards justice and invaluable support to the heirs of the Armenian genocide victims.”
In the Armenian capital, Yerevan, Taline Nourian, 41, said her people have been waiting for this moment for years.
“We wanted it before Biden,” she told reporters. “I think Turkey will be afraid now, because all countries are going to start recognizing [the genocide].”
A long line of people on Sunday snaked across the sand of Miami Beach, Florida, as dozens of travelers from Latin America waited their turn at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination booth. Sweating under the afternoon sun, visitors checked into an online system — no proof of residence required — and soon after received a free, single-dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a vaccination card. People had come from all over Latin America — Ecuador, El Salvador, Venezuela — where the vaccine rollout has been slow and hampered by supply shortages. “In my country, [COVID-19] is getting out of hand and there’s
A man was left stranded on a glass-bottomed suspension bridge in northeastern China after sudden gale-force winds shattered the transparent panels around him. The man was on the 100m-high bridge at Piyan Mountain in Longjing city, when it was hit by sudden strong weather, the local tourism department said. TRAPPED Gusts of up to 150kph blew out several glass panels, trapping the tourist until he could be rescued by firefighters, police, and forestry and tourism personnel more than half an hour later. Photographs shared on social media showed the man clinging to the side of the bridge, surrounded by gaping holes where the
US actress Scarlett Johansson on Saturday urged the film industry to “step back” from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) as criticism of the opaque film industry group, which controls the Golden Globe awards, continues to mount for sexism and racism. The Avengers star said in a statement that the “HFPA is an organization that was legitimized by the likes of Harvey Weinstein to amass momentum for Academy recognition.” Johansson said that “as an actor promoting a film,” participating in the organization’s news conferences and award shows “has often meant facing sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on
‘COVERT’ ACTIVITY: The High Court ruled against a Chinese-born Australian former adviser to a state lawmaker, who allegedly advanced ‘policy goals of a foreign principal’ A Chinese-born Australian political adviser yesterday lost his challenge in Australia’s highest court against laws banning covert foreign interference in domestic politics. John Zhang (張智森) also lost his Australian High Court challenge in a unanimous decision of seven judges to the validity of search warrants executed by police at his Sydney home and offices last year as part of an investigation into illegal foreign interference on behalf of China. Zhang was an adviser to New South Wales Lawmaker Shaoquett Moselmane, whose membership in the opposition Labor Party was suspended after he was also the target of police raids. The raids in June last