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Biden to Say Armenian Victims Massacre. Here’s why it matters.

At risk of infecting Turkey, President Biden is set to formally announce on Saturday that the United States is concerned with the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Turks, a genocide more than a century ago – the most monstrous of crimes.

Mr. Biden would be the first US president to make such an announcement that predecessors Turkey, a NATO ally and a strategically decisive country were unwilling to oppose Europe and the Middle East.

The expected announcement, which Mr Biden indicated when he was a candidate last year, was welcomed by Armenian and human rights advocates. It bears a lot of symbolic weight to equate Armenian violence with the scale of atrocities carried out in Nazi-occupied Europe, Cambodia and Rwanda.

The use of the term is a moral slap for Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan, a major cause of the massacre. He supported other leaders, including Pope Francis, to describe the Armenian murders.

Genocide is generally defined as the intentional killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political or cultural group with the intention of destroying that group.

The term did not exist until 1944, when a Polish Jewish lawyer, Rafael Lemkin, added the Greek word for race or tribe, with “gino”, “-side”, from the Latin word for murder. Mr. Lemkin said that the killings of Armenians and the Holocaust destroyed by the Nazis shaped his thinking.

The term was included in the 1948 United Nations Treaty that led to the massacre A crime under international law.

Although partisan terms have often been used in many current conflicts to discredit and tarnish opponents, genocide lawsuits are rare. Special courts created to prosecute crimes, including the massacre of 1975–1979 CambodiaIn the genocide of 1994 Rwanda, And atrocities including genocide Former Yugoslavia.

The International Criminal Court, which was created in 2002 to prosecute such crimes, is only A pending massacre case – Former Sudan President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, who was wanted on two warrants for crimes, including genocide in the Darfur region between 2003 and 2008. The court cannot prosecute crimes committed prior to its establishment.

The United Nations supreme court, the International Court of Justice, ruled in January 2020 that Myanmar should take action to protect Rohingya Muslims, who have been accused by the country’s accused of campaigning for genocide. The ruling, which has no enforcement power, was the result of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Muslim countries that wanted the court to condemn Myanmar for violating the genocide treaty.

During the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, violence erupted against the Armenians, including a region that is now Armenia, a country ringed by Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran.

Beginning in 1915, the Ottomans aligned with Germany in World War I, to prevent Armenians from collaborating with Russia, and ordered mass exile. The murders by Ottoman Ottoman soldiers and police killed 1.5 million ethnic Armenians by starvation, and forced the exodus to the south of what is now Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

About 500,000 Armenians survived, and many eventually scattered to Russia, the United States, and elsewhere to become the world’s most distant migrant.

Many historians now consider the deaths of Armenians to be the first genocide of the 20th century. For many Armenians, it is a mark carried through generations, still evoking strong emotions, heightened by Turkey’s insistence that the massacre is a fantasy.

The Turkish government has acknowledged that atrocities were committed during that time but it has been argued that a large number of Turks were also killed and the Armenian casualty figures are wildly exaggerated. A succession of Turkish leaders has characterized the massacre as a lie intended to undermine their account of the creation of modern Turkey.

Turkey’s denial of genocide pervades Turkish society. Writers who dared to use this word Prosecuted under section 301 Turkey’s Penal Code, which bans “defaming Turkishness”. The denial is taught at an early age, calling the genocide a lie in school textbooks, describing Armenians of that period as traitors and declaring action by Ottoman Turks as “necessary measures” against Armenian separatism.

Some have come close. President Ronald Reagan Tangible reference to “massacre of Armenians” in a statement dated April 22, 1981 In commemoration of the liberation of Nazi death camps.

But US presidents have generally avoided describing the killings to avoid any conflict with Turkey that would jeopardize their cooperation in regional conflict or diplomacy.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Biden indicated his intentions a year ago In a speech On 24 April, the official day commemorating the massacre of Armenia. He used the term “Armenian Genocide” and said that “we must never forget or be silent about the terrible and orderly campaign of this destructive”. And in recent years, bipartisan anger towards Mr. Erdogan has increased. In 2019, the House and Senate passed resolutions describing the Armenian murders as genocide.

As vice president in the Obama administration, Mr. Biden never enjoyed a comfortable relationship with Mr. Erdogan, an autocratic leader Which gave him an icy welcome in August 2016. The two met a month after a failed coup in Turkey in which Mr. Erdogan blamed a Turkish cleric who was deported to the United States.

Perhaps more important, Mr. Erdogan’s President Vladimir V. of Russia. Proximity with Putin, Turkey’s test relations with other NATO allies and the purchase of Russian antiacraft missiles have irked both the Biden administration and the House of Congress. And Turkey’s growing economic problems under Mr. Erdogan have reduced the likelihood of retaliation against any US declaration that offends him.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Erdogan had no substantive discussion for the first three months of Mr. Biden’s tenure, an indication that the White House cites little importance for Mr. Erdogan as a partner.

Political risk advisor, Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremer, Said last month He believed that Mr. Biden would declare the massacre knowing that a reset of US-Turkish relations would then become “very difficult”.

Mr Erdogan’s colleagues have indicated that Mr Biden’s announcement would face an adverse reaction in Turkey. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a Turkish media interview this week that “if they want to spoil relations with the United States, the decision is theirs.”

According to a tally by the Armenian National Institute, a Washington-based group, In at least 30 countries Have done so.

The answer is more complex concerning the United Nations, which played a central role in the treaty that made genocide a crime, but has not taken a position on what happened in 1915, 30 years before the global body. The website of his office on the responsibility of genocide prevention and protection, In describing the origin of the word genocide, Armenia is not mentioned. Antonio Guterres, General Secretary has raised the issue.

Asked on Thursday about Mr. Guterres’ approach, his spokesman, Stephen Dujaric, said: “We have no comment, as a general rule, on the events that took place before the founding of the United Nations” massacre, Mr. Pujarić Said, “Determined by an appropriate judicial body as far as the United Nations is concerned.”

Lara Jake contributed reporting.