In a surprise move on Friday, US President Biden said that he had told Turkish President Erdogan by telephone that he was going to use the term “Armenian Genocide” — marking the first time in forty years that an American president has used that explosive term.
Usually referring to the atrocity as a disaster or a massacre, previous presidents have sidestepped actually terming what happened to the Armenians prior to World War I a “genocide,” the systematic killing of an entire people.
Ronald Reagan was the last American president to call the atrocities committed against the Armenians a “genocide,” back in 1981. However, he quickly backtracked under pressure from Turkey, and no other President since that time has dared to tread on Turkey’s feet by using that emotion-laden term.
Erdogan has in the past rebuked other countries that have labeled the atrocities against the Armenians a genocide, and Biden’s declaration, which he telegraphed several days ago, will likely strain relations with the difficult NATO ally, which frequently locks horns with Greece over oil and gas rights sovereignty in the Mediterranean.
Tomorrow, April 24, marks the anniversary of the Armenian genocide, when Christian Armenians were massacred, raped, enslaved and driven from their ancestral homelands in what is now Turkey.
Armenian Genocide an explosive issue in Turkey
The use of term genocide carries enormous symbolic meaning, affirming that what happened to the Armenian people was on a par with atrocities committed in Nazi-occupied Europe, as well as Cambodia and Rwanda, for example.
An American President using the term, according to the New York Times, is “a moral slap” at President Erdogan, a genocide denier who has repeatedly clashed with other world leaders — even including Pope Francis — for describing the atrocities in that way.
1.5 million Christian Armenians killed in Genocide
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis commemorated the Armenian Genocide on Friday, the eve of the 106th anniversary of the atrocity, which began on April 24, 1915.
Each year, Greece remembers the abhorrent slaughter of over 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottomans during the First World War on the “Day of Remembrance of the Ottoman Empire.”
“One hundred and six years after the crime of 1915, humanity does not forget the ethnic cleansing of a people, a massive and systematic crime, which, in fact, was organized when the eyes of the planet were focused on the muddy trenches of the First World War,” Mitsotakis stated on Friday.
“Today, therefore, as every April 24th, we honor the memory of the innocent victims, declaring our faith in respect for human life and dignity, because only peaceful coexistence leads peoples forward, turning their diversity into mutual wealth.”
Turkey denies existence of Armenian Genocide
The existence of the genocide has long been denied by Turkey, which claims that the large number of Armenians who died during the period were killed during clashes — not on a systematic basis dependent on their ethnicity, or a genocide.
Mitsotakis stressed on Friday that Greece has long recognized the suffering of the Armenian people, and has always affirmed that what happened in Turkey was, indeed, a genocide, saying “Greece also does not forget that at the beginning of the 20th century Greeks and Armenians lived together moments of martyrdom.
“That is why, even in difficult conditions itself, our country was one of the first to treat persecuted Armenians and recognize the Genocide of their people.”
In other news emerging on Friday, the Greek government stated that the European Union is not giving Turkey a “blank check” in the Eastern Mediterranean in the measures adopted by EU leaders in a virtual meeting earlier in the afternoon.
According to reports, the EU is calling on Turkey to refrain from any renewed provocations or unilateral actions in violation of international law, and is also offering Ankara a “phased, proportionate and reversible” way to enhance collaboration between the countries.
The sources said that Turkey “will have to show consistency and continuity and will continue to be evaluated,” and any decisions made along the way will be referred to the European Council in June.
This photo depicts episode of deportation of #Erzurum #Armenia|ns to #Mesopotamia, where they were slaughtered on road. Men were shot to death or killed by axe;women were raped & killed, thirst & starvation; lonely & helpless kids were inevitably condemned to death. #Genocide106 pic.twitter.com/tKRw65NsWO
— Armenia 🇦🇲 (@armenia) April 23, 2021
The White House issued a press release confirming that the American President had spoken with Erdogan earlier today, saying only that “President Joseph R. Biden spoke today with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, conveying his interest in a constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements.
“The leaders agreed to hold a bilateral meeting on the margins of the NATO Summit in June to discuss the full range of bilateral and regional issues.”
No mention was made in that release of the Armenian genocide.
— Armenia 🇦🇲 (@armenia) April 23, 2021