In a historic move, President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to officially recognize the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as a genocide, a move that is likely to anger Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Biden released a statement on the 106th anniversary of the massacre, which is called Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which marks the beginning of the killings.
“Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future—toward the world that we wish to build for our children,” the statement read. “A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security. Let us renew our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. And let us pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the world.”
The move keeps Biden’s campaign promise to use the word genocide to describe the killings and deportation of Armenians more than a century ago.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned the Biden administration the move would damage the relationship between the United States and Turkey. On Saturday, Cavusoglu rejected Biden’s use of the term.
“This statement of the United States, which distorts historical facts, will never be accepted in the conscience of the Turkish people and will open a deep wound that is difficult to shake our mutual trust and friendship,” he said in a statement.
Former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump avoided using the word genocide during their time in office.
Biden spoke to Erdogan for the first time as president on Friday. Reports say during the call, the President informed the Turkish leader of his decision to formally recognize the Armenian genocide.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan released a statement and welcomed Biden’s use of the term.
“The US has once again demonstrated its unwavering commitment to protecting human rights and universal values,” he said.