US president Joe Biden is preparing to recognise the World War I-era killings of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide, US media said on Wednesday.
Such a move would further inflame tensions with NATO ally Turkey, which vehemently rejects the designation that has already been adopted by dozens of other countries including France and Russia.
Biden is expected to announce the genocide designation on Saturday, the 106th anniversary of the mass killings that began in 1915, when the Ottoman Empire was battling Tsarist Russia during World War I in the region that is now Armenia, according to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
The move would make Biden the first US president to explicitly call the killings a genocide, and although the historic designation would carry no legal consequences it would infuriate Ankara, which insists there was no genocide and that both sides committed atrocities during the war.
The reports came after more than 100 members of Congress, led by Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote to the president urging him to make good on a campaign promise to recognize the genocide.
The US Congress formally recognised the killings as genocide in December 2019 in a symbolic vote.
‘For decades, while leaders around the world recognize the first genocide of the 20th century, the president of the United States has remained silent,’ the letter said.
‘Mr President, as you said last year in your April 24 statement, ‘Silence is complicity.’ The shameful silence of the United States government on the historic fact of the Armenian Genocide has gone on for too long, and it must end,’ the letter said.
After the Dutch parliament passed a motion in February urging the government to recognize the genocide, Turkey said the move was ‘aimed at rewriting history based on political motives.’
Fearing that Biden could use his speech on Saturday to acknowledge the genocide, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview this week that ‘statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties. If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs.’
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