US President Biden officially says 1915 massacres of Armenians constitute genocide

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US President Joe Biden on Saturday said the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide, a historic declaration that is set to infuriate Turkey and potentially further damage frayed ties between the two NATO allies.

The largely symbolic move, breaking away from decades of carefully calibrated language from the White House, will likely to be celebrated by the Armenian diaspora in the US, but comes at a time when Ankara and Washington have deep policy disagreements over a host of issues.

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US President Joe Biden’s recognition that the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide aims to honor the victims and is not to assign blame, a senior administration official said, emphasizing that Washington still sees Ankara as an important NATO ally.

Biden’s first telephone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday was “professional” and “straightforward”, the official told reporters, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

During the call, Biden told Erdogan he planned to make an announcement about the genocide statement, the official said, and that the state of US-Turkey ties, which has deteriorated sharply in the past two years, was also briefly discussed.

“The president has a desire to work closely with President Erdogan to address all of these issues, and that was why he suggested that they take the opportunity to meet in person when they’re both at the NATO summit in June to have a fulsome discussion on all of these issues,” the official said.

Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan told US President Joe Biden in a letter that recognition of the genocide is a matter of security to Armenia, especially after events that took place in the region last year when a war in Nagorno-Karabakh broke out.

Turkey slammed US President Joe Biden’s decision to recognize the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a genocide, saying the statement had no legal basis and would “open a deep” wound in bilateral ties.

“This statement of the US, which distorts the historical facts, will never be accepted in the conscience of the Turkish people, and will open a deep wound that undermines our mutual trust and friendship,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said, adding it rejected and denounced the statement “in the strongest terms”.

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