President Biden is preparing to announce that the atrocities committed against Armenian civilians in the early 20th century were an act of genocide, officials familiar with the matter told The New York Times.
An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire amid a systemic death march that began during World War I, historians say. Biden is expected to make his declaration on Saturday, the annual day of remembrance for the victims. Turkey has said Armenians were killed amid clashes with Ottoman forces, but denies that the death toll topped 1 million and a genocide occurred.
At least two dozen countries have recognized the killings as a genocide, and in 2019, Congress passed nonbinding resolutions doing the same, but no sitting U.S. president has explicitly referred to an Armenian genocide, with the exception of a passing written reference by Ronald Reagan in 1981. Already, tensions are high between the U.S. and Turkey, with the countries clashing on everything from human rights to the situation in Syria. On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a reporter, "Statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties. If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs."
Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Aivazian told told the Times on Wednesday that "recognition by the United States will be a kind of moral beacon to many countries. This is not about Armenia and Turkey. This is about our obligation to recognize and condemn the past, present, and future genocide."