President Joe Biden is expected to officially recognize the Armenian genocide on Saturday as he participates in a commemorative ceremony on the massacres the Armenian people endured on the hands of the Ottoman Empire between 1915-1917, according to U.S officials.
The move, which would most certainly be opposed by Turkey who still refuses to recognize the genocide, would be the first time that a sitting president categorizes the tragic events as genocide since Ronald Reagan did the same in 1981. Since then, presidents have done their best to try to avoid angering Turkey, refusing to call the genocide by its name.
The United States Congress passed a similar resolution condemning the genocide in 2019, where it was approved overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate, with the measure receiving unanimous consent in the Senate and with only 14 Representatives not voting in favor of the measure.
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) had previously made a speech on the floor of the House calling for Biden to finally recognize the Armenian Genocide, and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) has already congratulated the administration’s decision in a tweet posted last night.
The Turkish government has already said that any declaration of the United States recognizing the Armenian Genocide would only “damage ties” between both countries, relations which have become increasingly testy over the recent years as the United States has increasingly called out Turkey’s Erdogan moves against liberal institutions, and with Congress sanctioning the Turkish government over their purchase of Russian S-400 missile system, a move considered outrageous as Turkey is a member of NATO.
Relations between the United States and Turkey are both in a frayed state but their also crucial for the stability of the region. Turkey is located in an extremely strategic location, giving them effective control (through the Bosphorus) over who has access to the Black Sea, an area that has recently become vital as Russia and Ukraine tensions escalate.
The country also shares a border with Syria and has taken an active part in the conflict there, most notably their offensive against the U.S-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria in 2019. Finally, the country is also a NATO member, as both sides found the Soviet Union to be a common threat during the cold war.
Armenia’s foreign minister, on the other hand, has praised the move, calling it a “moral beacon to many countries”. Armenia, who fought a month-long war with Azerbaijan last year over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, has had a historically tense and fractious relationship with Turkey after the ottomans killed almost 1 million Armenians during the genocide. Which forced many Armenians to leave their homes and settle around the world, with an estimated 7 million Armenians living outside of Armenia.
Biden’s decision to recognize the Armenian genocide will certainly ruffle a few feathers in Ankara, but with the relations between both countries already at a historic low, it looks like the Biden administration has considered it is time to make this significant step, regardless of how this could be taken by Turkey.