Turkey’s foreign minister had warned the Biden administration that the designation would harm relations with the U.S. and be met with a strong reaction.
By Shannon Pettypiece
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Saturday officially acknowledged the killing of more than a million Armenians by Ottoman Turks more than a century ago as genocide, a move that could complicate an already strained relationship between the U.S. and Turkey.
Biden’s predecessors have acknowledged the mass killing of Armenians but stopped short of using the term “genocide” due to Turkish objections. As a candidate, Biden said he would make the designation, and a bipartisan group of members of Congress urged Biden to take action ahead of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which is Saturday.
For Turks, the issue is an emotionally charged one wrapped up in feelings of national pride. Turkey’s foreign minister warned the Biden administration that the designation would harm relations with the U.S. and be met with a strong reaction. Turkey has been a key strategic partner for the U.S., but Biden was critical of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the campaign.
Biden spoke to Erdogan for the first time as president on Friday. During the call he conveyed “his interest in a constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements,” the White House said in a statement. The leaders agreed to meet at the NATO summit in June, the White House said.
Concerns about straining the U.S. relationship with Turkey have led past presidents, including former President Barack Obama, to back down on campaign promises to declare the killings to be genocide. Turkey, a NATO member, has been valuable in the United States’ military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.