Trump calls 1915 events by Armenian name as Biden calls for genocide recognition

(Updates with statements in paragraphs 4, 8-10)

In a statement released on April 24, Armenian Remembrance Day, U.S. President Donald Trump repeated a commitment to “fostering a more humane and peaceful world,” and used the Armenian phrase Meds Yeghern, meaning the Great Calamity, for the events of 1915.

“Beginning in 1915, 1 and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire,” the statement said, echoing previous years and calling the events, “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.”

The statement focused on cooperation between the American and Armenian peoples, while welcoming “efforts by the Armenians and Turks to acknowledge and reckon with their painful history.”

“Failing to remember or acknowledge the fact of a genocide only paves the way for future mass atrocities,” presumptive Democratic candidate for the 2020 U.S. presidential race Joe Biden said in a statement, and announced his pledge to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

The name Meds Yeghern was used for the first time by former U.S. president Barack Obama in 2009, and his administration continued to use for the rest of his term. Trump has repeated the term after coming to office. Ronald Reagan remains the only U.S. president to have used the term genocide, during the inauguration of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. in 1981.

The U.S. House of Representatives in October last year passed a bill recognising the events as genocide with overwhelming support, but three efforts to officially recognise them as the Armenian Genocide were blocked in the following months by Republican senators Lindsey Graham, David Perdue and Kevin Cramer. The resolution passed when attempted for the fourth time at the Senate, though the U.S. administration has not recognised the events as “genocide” and said that the administration’s position has not changed.

“The Administration’s statement falls short of the national consensus as reflected in the unequivocal affirmation by the Congress of the United States which overwhelmingly adopted H.Res. 296 and S.Res. 150 last Fall, as well as by 49 American states,” Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Washington-based non-governmental organisation Armenian Assembly of America, said in a statement to reporters.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered condolences to the grandchildren of “Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives under the harsh conditions of World War I,” in a letter to Archbishop Sahag II Mashalian, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople.

“Our most important wish is that groups who have other intentions are not given an opportunity (to derive animosity out of history) as we desire and work for a future full of unity, prosperity and peace,” Erdoğan said.

The White House statement “is based on the subjective narrative that Armenians try to turn into dogma,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a response statement.

The Turkish ministry pointed to the “suffering of more than 500,000 Muslims massacred by Armenian rebels,” and mentioned “radical Armenians who want to obscure their responsibility in the events of 1915.”

“We commemorate with respect all civilian Ottoman nations, Muslim, Christian and Jewish, who lost their lives during the period of dissolution of the Ottoman Empire,” it said.