In contrast with landmark resolutions adopted by the U.S. Congress late last year, President Donald Trump again declined on Friday to describe the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.
Just like his predecessors, Trump continued to use instead the Armenian phrase “Meds Yeghern” (Great Crime) in a statement on the 105th anniversary of the genocide.
“Today, we join the global community in memorializing the lives lost during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century,” read the statement. “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.”
“On this day of remembrance, we pay respect to those who suffered and lost their lives, while also renewing our commitment to fostering a more humane and peaceful world,” it said, praising the “strength and resiliency of the Armenian people in the face of tragedy.”
Trump has previously issued virtually identical statements on what the White House calls Armenian Remembrance Day marked on April 24.
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate recognized the Armenian genocide in separate resolutions passed in October and December respectively.
The Trump administration distanced itself from the resolutions. “The position of the Administration has not changed,” a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said later in December.
The two leading Armenian-American advocacy groups strongly criticized Trump for not following the U.S. lawmakers’ example.
“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, the executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, said in a statement.
“Despite last year’s near-unanimous Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide, President Trump has, once again, granted Turkish President Erdogan – an openly anti-American dictator – a veto over honest U.S. remembrance of Turkey’s WWI-era genocide of millions of Armenians and other Christians,” charged Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America.
For three consecutive weeks the Senate resolution was blocked by Republican senators at the behest of the White House concerned about its damage to U.S.-Turkish relations. Nevertheless, the Republican-controlled chamber eventually approved it by unanimous consent.
The Turkish government strongly condemned the Senate action, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu calling it a “political show” that “has no validity whatsoever.”
But Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian thanked the Senate and the House for the “historic” resolutions.
Meanwhile, Trump’s likely Democratic challenger in the November 2020 presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden, again used the word “genocide” in his statement on the genocide anniversary issued on Friday.
“If elected, I pledge to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide and will make universal human rights a top priority for my administration,” he said. “I stand today with all Armenians and the Armenian-American community, which has contributed so much to our nation, in remembering and honoring the victims of the Armenian Genocide.”
Biden strongly supported Armenian genocide recognition when he was a senator. In particular, he co-sponsored in 2007 a relevant resolution that never reached the Senate floor.