U.S. Democratic presidential frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden has called for an official U.S. recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
“The United States must reaffirm, once and for all, our record on the Armenian Genocide,” Biden said in a letter to the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) released by the lobby group on Friday.
“We must never forget or remain silent about this horrific and systematic campaign of extermination that resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children and the mass deportation of 2 million Armenians from their homes,” he wrote. “If we do not fully acknowledge, commemorate, and teach our children about genocide, the words “never again” lose their meaning.”
“Failing to remember or acknowledge the fact of a genocide only paves the way for future mass atrocities,” he added.
Biden, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential election, was a strong backer of Armenian genocide recognition as a member the U.S. Senate. In particular, he co-sponsored in 2007 a relevant resolution that never reached the Senate floor.
The ANCA noted this fact in a statement. But it also pointed out that former President Barack Obama failed to honor his campaign pledges to reaffirm his recognition of the genocide if elected.
“The Obama-Biden Administration … pivoted hard against the spirit and letter of its high-profile campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, deepening official U.S. complicity in Turkey’s genocide denials and ongoing obstruction of justice for this crime,” read the ANCA statement.
In 2010, Biden controversially claimed that then Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian had asked Washington not to “force” the issue of genocide recognition while Turkish-Armenian negotiations are in progress. Sarkisian denied the claim.
In May 2015, Biden joined Sarkisian and over two thousand Armenian Americans in attending a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide held at Washington’s National Cathedral.
In an April 2015 statement, Obama again avoided using the word “genocide” in reference to the mass killings. He at the same time implicitly praised Pope Francis for honoring the victims of what the pontiff called “the first genocide of the 20th century” in a Vatican Mass. Obama also paid tribute to Henry Morgenthau, America’s First World War-era ambassador in Constantinople who tried to stop what he saw as a “campaign of race extermination” by the Ottoman Turks.