President Joe Biden on Saturday achieved a goal long sought after by American Armenians, declaring Turkey’s massive massacre of Armenians in the early 20th century as “genocide.”
“Every year on this day we remember the lives of all those who died in the Armenian genocide of the Ottoman era and we again pledge to prevent such an atrocity from happening again,” Biden said. in a press release.
Genocide is defined as the willful killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.
The statement breaks with the long-standing American evasion of the term’s use. Turkey has long denied that the killings were “genocide”, claiming the actions were part of a war. As an important ally of the United States and a member of NATO, these wishes have been respected by many American administrations.
But now, on the 106th anniversary of the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million people, Biden has kept a campaign pledge and delivered the words Armenians have long sought to hear.
Turkey was awaiting the declaration. Its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was informed during a phone call with Biden that he would make the trip. Turkey lobbied to prevent the announcement in the media, but ultimately failed to stem the statement.
Biden and Erdogan are due to meet at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in June.
“We are making history,” Biden said in his statement on Saturday. “We’re not doing this to blame, but to make sure what happened never happens again.”
Southern California has the largest Armenian community outside of Yerevan, with many living in Glendale, near Los Angeles, California.