White House intends to "acknowledge" 1915 atrocities - spokesperson says
(The headline of this article has been updated)
U.S. President Joe Biden plans to make good on his pre-election promise to acknowledge the atrocities committed against the Armenians during World War One, a White House spokesperson has told Kathimerini.
Replying to a request for reaction to a letter initiated by Senator Bob Menendez and co-signed by 36 other senators of both parties, the spokesperson said the Biden administration has committed to ensuring that such atrocities will not be repeated and that a crucial part of this is the recognition of past atrocities.
The move that is likely to cause further tension in U.S. relations with Turkey.
Menendez’s letter in full below, followed by the list of co-signee senators:
Dear President Biden:
We write today to strongly urge you to officially recognize the truth of the Armenian Genocide. In the past you have recognized the Armenian Genocide as genocide, including in your Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day statement during the 2020 campaign. We call on you to do so again as President to make clear that the U.S. government recognizes this terrible truth.
From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire systematically sought to eliminate the Armenian population, killing 1.5 million Armenians and driving hundreds of thousands more from their homeland. We join the Armenian community in the United States and around the world in honoring the memory of these victims, and we stand firmly against attempts to pretend that this intentional, organized effort to destroy the Armenian people was anything other than a genocide. You have correctly stated that American diplomacy and foreign policy must be rooted in our values, including respect for universal rights. Those values require us to acknowledge the truth and do what we can to prevent future genocides and other crimes against humanity.
In December 2019, after decades of obstruction, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced affirming the facts of the Armenian Genocide. The House also overwhelmingly passed its own resolution recognizing the facts of the Armenian Genocide in 2019. We appreciate that in your April 2020 Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day statement you pledged “to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide,” but Congress has already made its position clear. It is time for executive branch to do so as well.
As you said in your Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day statement last April, “It is particularly important to speak these words and commemorate this history at a moment when we are reminded daily of the power of truth, and of our shared responsibility to stand against hate — because silence is complicity.” Administrations of both parties have been silent on the truth of the Armenian Genocide. We urge you to break this pattern of complicity by officially recognizing that the Armenian Genocide was a genocide.
Joining Chairman Menendez in co-signing the letter to President Biden are: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Robert Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) released the following statement concerning the letter:
“President Biden – by virtue of his own strong Senate record and the bipartisan House and Senate resolutions he backed as a candidate – is powerfully positioned to reject Turkey’s gag-rule, locking in permanent U.S. government-wide condemnation and commemoration of the Armenian Genocide,” ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian said.
Hellenic American Leadership Council Executive Director Endy Zemenides concurred. “The Biden Administration has fortunately started on the right foot and spoken to Turkey truthfully and bluntly. Yet the White House still needs to be truthful when it comes to the Armenian Genocide. President Biden’s record as a Senator and his statements as a candidate for the Presidency prove that he is aware of and committed to this truth. Now that he is the boss, the end of Turkey’s gag rule should be a no-brainer,” stated Zemenides.
Senator Menendez has led a decades long fight to ensure proper recognition of the Armenian Genocide as part of a U.S. foreign policy that reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. On December 12, 2019, the Senate unanimously passed a bi-partisan resolution (S.Res.150), led by Sen. Menendez and Sen. Cruz, affirming the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide, making clear that U.S. policy must reject efforts to deny the truth of this tragedy. A similar resolution was adopted by the U.S. House (H.Res.296) on October 29, 2019, by a near-unanimous vote of 405-11.
Over 50,000 participated in the ANCA’s national call-to-action - anca.org/Menendez - writing, calling, and tweeting their Senators to co-sign the bipartisan letter led by Senator Menendez.
(A version of this article was originally published by Kathimerini and reproduced by permission.)