Biden describes Armenian tragedy as genocide for the second time

Armenian remembrance day was held yesterday to mark the mass killings that took place over a century ago

US President Joe Biden used Sunday's Armenian remembrance day to describe past mass atrocities by Ottomans as genocide, repeating his description from a year ago when he ended decades of American equivocation.

Mr Biden, who earlier this month said Russia's atrocities committed during its invasion of Ukraine amounted to genocide, again used the same term to describe the massacres of Armenians during the First World War.

"On April 24, 1915, Ottoman authorities arrested Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. Thus began the Armenian genocide —one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century," the president said in a statement.

"Today, we remember the one-and-a half million Armenians who were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination, and mourn the tragic loss of so many lives."

Mr Biden angered Ankara a year ago when he became the first sitting US president to describe the massacres as genocide.

Turkey had called Biden's use of the word "genocide" for the killings of Armenians during the First World War the "greatest betrayal to peace and justice". The Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan denounced the genocide recognition as "groundless" and "destructive."

Former Republican senator Jeff Flake, before becoming the next US ambassador to Turkey, officially recognised the mass atrocities perpetrated against Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide, reversing his earlier positions.

Mr Flake answered with a resounding “yes” when the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, asked if he has changed his stance and is ready to “join this body and the administration in reaffirming the Armenian genocide".

The strained relations between the US and Turkey had gradually improved. When the two leaders met last June, Mr Erdogan hailed it as a "new era" of constructive ties with Washington.

Turkey, which became a secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, acknowledges that 300,000 Armenians may have died but strongly rejects that it was genocide.

Last month, Armenia said it was ready to establish diplomatic relations and open its border with Turkey, Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan told the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said earlier that he had held "productive and constructive" talks with Mr Mirzoyan in an effort to mend ties after decades of animosity.

Turkey has had no diplomatic or commercial ties with Armenia since the 1990s.

As many as 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed from 1915 to 1917 during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, which suspected the Christian minority of conspiring with Russia in the First World War.

Agencies continued to this report.

Updated: April 25, 2022, 7:52 AM