Biden declares massacres of Armenians a genocide

U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday made a historic declaration that infuriated Turkey. He said the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide.

In a statement, Biden said the American people honor – in his words - “all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” adding, “We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated."

The largely symbolic move breaks away from decades of carefully calibrated language from the White House.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said it opens a “deep wound” between the two countries. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted, “We entirely reject this statement based solely on populism.” Many Turkish people expressed concern, too.

Businesswoman Olcay Varlik:

“Now, they are talking about genocide. We are really disturbed by this. We are troubled by this.”

Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One. But it contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.

In a bid to soften the blow, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters Washington continues to see Turkey as a critical NATO ally and encourages Armenia and Turkey to pursue reconciliation.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote - in a letter to Biden - that Armenians worldwide welcomed the message with “great enthusiasm.”

In Yerevan, people cheered and waved flags after a man announced Biden’s declaration. This resident said, “I think it is very good that he used the word, ‘genocide.” In my opinion, when he recognizes genocide, this will serve as an example for many states, and, I think, it will be good.”

Biden’s decision comes at a time of strained ties. Washington and Ankara have had deep policy differences over a host of issues.