President Joe Biden is preparing to formally acknowledge the 1915 Armenian Genocide, which would make him the first United States President to do so.
Over 100 House lawmakers signed a bipartisan letter to the President Wednesday, calling on him to acknowledge the genocide as a genocide.
White House sources say Biden will likely comment on the issue this Saturday on "Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day."
Previous Presidents have avoided using the word "genocide" out of fear that it could jeopardize U.S.-Turkish relations.
In 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Armenians were taken from their homes, tortured, starved, and killed. The land in Western Armenia was also taken by the Ottoman Empire.
The Turkish government has long since denied their actions.
Millions of Armenians fled the country and found refuge in nearby countries and the US.
April 24, 2021 will mark the 106th anniversary. Every year millions of Armenian-Americans take to the streets to protest and urge the US government to recognize the genocide and cut ties with Turkey.
For many Armenian-Americans, this recognition is long overdue.
"The presidential recognition is just another milestone in our March for truth and justice," Armen Sahakyan, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region (ANCA-WR).
The bipartisan letter, led by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, was sent days before April 24’s commemoration.
Schiff spoke with FOX 11 on Wednesday about his push to the president.
"If we aren’t going to recognize a genocide that happened a century ago, what does that say about our willingness to stand up and confront a genocide happening today?" Schiff said.
However, Turkey’s foreign minister has warned the Biden administration that recognition would "harm" U.S.-Tukey ties.
"In terms of U.S-Turkish relations. They have been going south for a long time," Schiff added.
"As Turkey has increasingly become more autocratic, drifted away from the west and the United States and more towards Russia and Iran, so we shouldn’t be carrying their water on genocide under any circumstances but also if our relationship with Turkey depends on our complicity on genocide denial, it’s not much of a relationship."
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier this week insisted Turkey wasn’t concerned by any decision that Biden might make, but also suggested that such a move would be met with a harsh reaction.
"If the United States wants our relations to get worse, it’s up to them," he said in an interview with Turkey’s HaberTurk news channel.
The relationship between Biden and Erdogan is off to a chilly start. More than three months into his presidency, Biden has yet to speak with him.
Biden’s move comes months after a war occurred between Armenia and neighboring country Azerbaijan, who was supported by Turkey.
Thousands of people were killed when Azerbaijan began fighting on Sept. 2020 over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as Artsakh). Several people living in Artsakh were displaced and several historical and cultural Armenian structures, including churches were destroyed.
Several Armenian POWs are currently being held captive by Azerbaijan. The war ended in early November of 2020 but over a hundred POWs have still not returned to Armenia.
- Multiple SoCal cities showing support for Armenia, calling for recognition of Artsakh
- Community holds silent protest to demand release of Armenian POWs
Since the war erupted, millions of people around the US and those in other countries have protested against Azerbaijan’s aggression towards Armenia, called for the formal recognition of Artsakh and demanded the US cut their ties with Turkey and sanction Turkey and Azerbaijan.