New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Joe Biden made history on Saturday, April 24, by becoming the first U.S. President to formally recognize that the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide. Since April 22, 1981, that President Reagan spoke about the Armenian Genocide for one single time only, on the occasion of the liberation of the Nazi camps, many U.S. Presidents gave – as presidential hopefuls – to the Armenian American Community empty promises; Joe Biden was the first to keep his promises.
Bureaucracies at both the Department of State and the Department of Defense were arguing over the past few days that such a move will aggravate the already tense US.- Turkish Relations. But Biden, knowing well Turkey, just discarded the advice. On Friday, April 23, he called President Tayyip Erdogan and informed about his decision.
Last year, both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, overwhelmingly passed resolutions urging the administration to recognize the Armenian Resolution, without been able to move President Trump.
According to Reuters, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey “entirely rejects” the U.S. decision which he said was based “solely on populism”, while the opposition denounced it as a “major mistake”.
The full text of President Biden’s statement is as follows:
“Each year on this day, 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. Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination. We honor the victims of the Meds Yeghern so that the horrors of what happened are never lost to history. And we remember so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms.
Of those who survived, most were forced to find new homes and new lives around the world, including in the United States. With strength and resilience, the Armenian people survived and rebuilt their community. Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.
Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future—toward the world that we wish to build for our children. A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security. Let us renew our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. And let us pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the world.
The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today.”
REUTERS ON THE RECOGNITION
Biden’s message was met with “great enthusiasm” by the people of Armenia and Armenians worldwide, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote in a letter to the U.S. president.
Reuters News Agency reports that in Montebello, California, a city in Los Angeles County that is home to many Armenian-Americans, members of the community held a small and somber ceremony during which they placed a cross made of flowers at a monument to the victims. Some attendees wore pins reading “genocide denied genocide repeated.”
Raffi Hamparian, chairman of Armenian National Committee of America, said in a statement that Biden’s “principled stand … pivots America toward the justice deserved and the security required for the future of the Armenian nation.”
Previous U.S. presidents have abandoned campaign promises to recognize the Armenian genocide for fear of damaging U.S.-Turkish relations, said Nicholas Danforth, non-resident fellow for The Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy.
“With relations already in shambles, there was nothing to stop Biden from following through,” said Danforth. “Ankara has no allies left in the US government to lobby against this and Washington isn’t worried whether it angers Turkey anymore.”
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan had established a close bond with former U.S. President Donald Trump, but since Biden took over, Washington has grown more vocal about Turkey’s human rights track record. It has also stood firm on its demand that Ankara get rid of the Russian defense systems.
Biden had also delayed having a telephone conversation with Erdogan until Friday — seen largely as a cold shoulder to the Turkish president — when he informed him of his decision to recognize the massacres as genocide.
Despite the tense relations, Erdogan and Biden are due to meet in June on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels.
Saturday’s announcement was slammed by the Turkish government and several opposition politicians. Faik Oztrak, spokesman for the main opposition Republican People’s Party, said “it will open wounds that will be difficult to repair not only on U.S.-Turkey ties but also on a potential compromise between the people of Armenia and Turkey.”
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey said its missions in the country would be closed on Monday and Tuesday for visa services due to the possibility of protests.
California Lt. Governor Eleni Tsakopoulos – Kounalakis posted a message thanking President Biden “for formally acknowledging what we have known all along: the Armenian people were the victims of genocide in the 20th century, and the violence they suffered must never be inflicted on anyone, ever again.”
AHEPASupreme President George G. Horiates has issued the following statement:
“In a victory for human rights today, AHEPA lauds President Joe Biden’s statement that the ‘campaign of extermination’ of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman authorities was an act of genocide. The statement follows congressional resolutions passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate in 2019 that affirmed the United States’ record on the Armenian Genocide.
“We commend and congratulate the Armenian American community for its decades of relentless hard work and persistent advocacy to attain the rightful recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States government, and we join them in remembrance of all Armenians who perished.
“Today, on the day that marks the 106th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide, the United States joins at least 29 other countries to affirm a historic truth and a commitment to human rights.
“Today, the United States ended its’ denial of the first genocide of the 20th century.”
Endy Zemenides, President of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) said that the long overdue recognition of the ArmenianGenocide is now a reality. “The memory of those lost to this genocide were dishonored by the stubborn and immoral refusal of the White House & the U.S. Department of State to recognize this crime. But as ANCA points out, this is not merely about the “past”.
If we are ever going to be serious about “Never Again”, we have to acknowledge what happened in the first place. Punishment of the Turkish perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide might have even deterred Hitler. And as the US Commission on International Religioua Freedom detailed in its annual report this week, Turkey carries on the legacy of genocide today by oppressing its religious minorities – including the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian communities against which it perpetrated genocides a century ago.
President Biden’s recognition of the #ArmenianGenocide honors truth and somewhat repairs the shame that his predecessors and too many of America’s diplomats brought upon us by complying with Turkey’s gag rule, today is merely a first step.
To really honor “Never Again” and to make human rights a fundamental part of American foreign policy, US must not only acknowledge and commemorate the truth of Armenian, Greek and Assyrian genocides but hold Turkey accountable for perpetuating the legacy of those genocides.
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) applauds President Joseph Biden, Jr. decision.
“We congratulate the Armenian American community who has endeavored for decades to reach this landmark moment,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “President Biden’s action, together with the passage of congressional resolutions by the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, signify an end to America’s foreign policy silence on the Armenian Genocide, a crime against humanity. Today is a banner day for upholding justice, human rights, and the rule of law.”
In March, AHI applauded Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez’s initiative to send a letter to President Biden requesting the Biden administration to join Congress in recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Thirty-nine Senators signed-on to the letter.
Calling on the United States to recognize the Armenian Genocide has been a staple of annual AHI’s policy statements.