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Analysis: All Signs Point to President Biden Recognizing the Armenian Genocide

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians.com Editor

WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Over the last few months, talk has been swirling around the capital that Joe Biden would unequivocally acknowledge the Armenian Genocide in the President’s annual April 24th remembrance day statement. While no U.S. President has acknowledged the Armenian Genocide since President Ronald Reagan in 1981, this time things were different. Any objective observer of Armenian American politics knows that Joe Biden has the longest pro-Armenia record (nearly 40 years) of any President in American history. 

While making his position ever more clear on the campaign trail in 2020, the Biden Administration has made a series of moves over the last few months all signaling that America would no longer just “not deny” the Armenian Genocide as some former officials have put it, but that our foreign service officers who represent America abroad would be allowed to speak truthfully about 1915. 

The following analysis of events early on in the Biden Administration and over the last few weeks all point to an official statement recognizing the Armenian Genocide coming from the White House on April 24, 2021.

To set the stage for President affirmation, Congress, led by the President’s Democratic party, had a role to play. After all, Congress had just recognized the Armenian Genocide for the first time in modern history with unanimous passage of an Armenian Genocide recognition resolution in the Senate in 2019 and House passage of a similar bill in 2020 by a vote of 405-11.

On March 19th, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led a letter signed by 38 Senators to President Biden urging him to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

Then, news of a Presidential acknowledgement first broke on March 20th, when Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer tweeted “White House: US will formally recognize Armenian genocide. #AboutTime.” From there momentum began to build and Turkey’s lobbyists and Armenian American advocacy groups began an intense lobbying offensive.

On March 24th, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, the first time senior U.S. and Turkish officials have met since Biden was sworn in as President. The exchange between the two foreign ministers, by all accounts, was rather tense. “Secretary Blinken urged Turkey not to retain the Russian S-400 air defense system, expressed concern over Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, and emphasized the importance of democratic institutions and respect for human rights,” according to a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price.

By this point, President Biden had spoken directly to the head of state of nearly every major U.S. ally, except Turkey. “Erdogan is desperate to secure a phone call with Biden,” Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and now Senior Director of the Turkey program at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Kurdistan 24.

Last week, U.S. Ambassador for USAID nominee Samantha Power tweeted about the Armenian Genocide in a tribute to the late Dr. Vartan Gregorian, an icon of the Armenian American community and a descendent of genocide survivors who passed away on April 16. 

On Tuesday, April 20, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu cast his government’s final threat in typical Turkish diplomatic fashion stating that America “needs to respect international law,” that such “statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties,” and that “if the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs,” Reuters reported.

The next day, over 100 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Biden keeping the pressure up on the White House. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times ran headlines reading “Biden Poised to Recognize Massacres of Armenians as Genocide, Officials Say” and “Biden Preparing to Declare That Atrocities Against Armenia Were Genocide,” respectively. 

Also on Wednesday, April 21, a less talked about announcement was made when the White House informed Turkey that it had signed a new deal with the eight F-35 producing nations, officially marking the removal of Turkey from the Department of Defense’s next generation stealth fighter jet program, the culmination of a years-long process begrudgingly started by the Trump Administration. Later the same day, Turkey announced it was already in talks to purchase a second regiment of S-400 air defense systems from Russia.

Then on Friday, April 23rd around noon, the White House reported that President Biden had spoken to Prime Minister Erdogan by phone and relayed his “interest in a constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements.” In response to a question about the President’s call with Erdogan at the State Department Daily Press Briefing at 2:06pm, spokesperson Jalina Porter stated “So at this time, we don’t have anything to read out as far as the Secretary’s call with his Turkish counterpart. But when it comes to the Armenian genocide, you can expect an announcement tomorrow, and we would have to refer you to the White House.” 

This is the first time that a State Department official has accurately referred to the events of 1915 since 2007, when former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John M. Evans publicly (although privately) acknowledged the fact of the genocide and was subsequently fired from his post. 

Moments later, at 2:31pm on April 23rd, Bloomberg News reported that Biden had also told Erdogan in the phone call that he will acknowledge the Armenian Genocide in a statement the next day.

It must be stated that these events have take place against the backdrop of an increasingly Islamist Turkey whose actions under the 20 year rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned the once pro-Western NATO ally into a belligerent, autocratic, ISIS-aligned, destabilizing force that now threatens U.S. interests beyond the Middle East. 

“Erdogan’s dictatorship renders ineffective Turkish diplomats—including current Ambassador Murat Mercan—who can only speak to the most ardent apologists for Erdogan’s behavior rather than those who stand in opposition. Erdogan has purged many Turkish-American lobby groups so that they reflect only his inner circle rather than Turkey’s (and America’s) broader political and intellectual spectrum. In short, Turkey can lobby but few will answer Mercan’s phone calls, let alone those of Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu,” former Pentagon official and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute Michael Rubin recently wrote in 19fortyfive.com. 

Despite the well known truth of the Armenian Genocide, not to mention the overwhelming body of evidence in the national archives of nearly a dozen countries across the world, and the incredible scholarly works that, in the face of state sponsored genocide denial, have judicially and meticulously made the case, the time has finally come for Armenian Americans to feel the sense of recognition, acceptance, and pride that Diaspora Armenians in other countries around the world have felt knowing that our government hears us, believes us, and is unafraid to stand on the right side of history with us.

100 Representatives Urge Biden Administration to Support Armenia and Artsakh

Florida Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Ted Deutch, Brian Mast, and John Rutherford Sign Armenian Caucus Letter

WASHINGTON, DC – Florida Armenians welcome a bipartisan letter signed by 100 Members of Congress to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin highlighting key policy issues, including the pressing importance of addressing the “ongoing humanitarian crisis in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).”

Spearheaded by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. and the Armenian Caucus leadership, the letter emphasized that “our diplomats must insist that any future settlement supported by the United States will provide the people of Artsakh with the ability to reconstruct their communities and rebuild their lives without fear of further bloodshed. This should include significant U.S. commitments to provide an urgently needed humanitarian aid and assistance package for the people of Artsakh.”

Noting that the “terms laid out in the current ceasefire are untenable for Artsakh’s long-term security and stability in the region,” the letter said in part that “more must be done to pursue an enduring settlement based on the fundamental right to self-determination,” and that the international community and the United States “has an important role to play by finally recognizing the right to self-determination for the people of Artsakh and their role as a legitimate negotiating party in resolving this conflict.”

The letter also expressed concern that “Azerbaijan also refuses to free dozens of Armenian prisoners of war and apprehended civilians” in violation of the ceasefire signed on November 10, 2020, as well as the need to hold “destabilizing actors accountable.”

In addition, the letter stated that “sanctions on high-ranking officials from [Turkey and Azerbaijan] and withholding aid, including ending the waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act and ceasing further military assistance through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity program,” would have helped halt last year’s deadly actions.

The letter concluded that “the United States should seek to strengthen our strategic relationship with Armenia” and that President Biden should follow in the footsteps of both the House and Senate and formally recognize the Armenian Genocide this April 24th.

“We applaud Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone for his steadfast leadership, as well as Caucus leaders Reps. David Valadao, Jackie Speier, Gus Bilirakis, Adam Schiff, and all of the signatories for coming together in this important effort to urge the Biden’s administration to work closely with America’s democratic allies Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, as they face an existential threat from the Islamist armies of Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenian Americans and all people who support democracy and freedom know that when America leads the world is better for it, and so we urge President Biden and his administration to be a leader in the South Caucasus,” stated Florida Armenians Editor Taniel Koushakjian.

Below are the 100 Members of Congress who signed this letter:

Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Jim Banks (R-IN), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), Mike Garcia (R-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Josh Harder (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hank Johnson (D-GA), David Joyce (R-OH), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Young Kim (R-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Susie Lee (D-NV), Andy Levin (D-MI), Mike Levin (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Brian Mast (R-FL), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Richard Neal (D-MA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At Large), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), John Rutherford (R-FL), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Michelle Steel (R-CA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Lori Trahan (D-MA), David Trone (D-MD), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT-At Large), and Susan Wild (D-PA).

Assembly Action Alert: Urge Congress to Sign the Letter to Biden Administration in Support of Closer US-Armenia Relations

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) is urging Armenian Americans to contact their Representative to ask them to sign a letter to the Biden administration to support a closer relationship between the United States and Armenia, and to send emergency aid to Artsakh.

Addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the letter is currently gathering signatures in an effort spearheaded by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Vice Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

The full text of the letter is below:

Hon. Antony Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Hon. Lloyd Austin
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1300 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretaries Blinken and Austin:

As members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, we write to offer our congratulations on your recent confirmations and to share a list of our bipartisan priorities we hope to work together on during the 117th Congress.

One of the most pressing issues for the Caucus and for the future of American foreign policy in the South Caucasus region is the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). As you are aware, Azerbaijani and Turkish forces initiated an unprovoked attack on September 27, 2020, leading to six weeks of devastating fighting that killed an estimated 5,000 people and forced more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians to flee from the Karabakh region. Azerbaijani forces were able to make rapid advances into the region with the aid of Turkish-backed foreign mercenaries, many alleged to have ties to internationally recognized terrorist groups, Bayraktar drones that utilize American components and technology, and heavy weaponry including the illegal use of cluster and white phosphorus munitions.

With the rising risk of a mass atrocity against thousands of Armenian civilians, Armenia agreed to a peace agreement brokered by Russia on November 10. This agreement brought an end to the fierce combat, but it has done little to address the immediate and significant problems of feeding, sheltering, and ensuring the safety of thousands of displaced families during the COVID-19 pandemic. In violation of the ceasefire, Azerbaijan also refuses to free dozens of Armenian prisoners of war and apprehended civilians, which illustrates how this agreement fails to address the structural issues that have caused uncertainty and fueled the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for decades. There remain several important issues that must be resolved and many critical questions that must be answered before a binding and durable peace settlement can be reached.

First, the terms laid out in the current ceasefire are untenable for Artsakh’s long-term security and stability in the region. The United States cannot allow Russia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan to solely dictate and dominate the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. While we have seen some reengagement in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group process, we believe more must be done to pursue an enduring settlement based on the fundamental right to self-determination. We appreciate the response Secretary Blinken gave during his confirmation hearing to this end, stating that he will “reinvigorate U.S. engagement to find a permanent settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that protects the security of Nagorno-Karabakh and helps to ensure another war does not break out.”

In negotiations, our diplomats must insist that any future settlement supported by the United States will provide the people of Artsakh with the ability to reconstruct their communities and rebuild their lives without fear of further bloodshed. This should include significant U.S. commitments to provide an urgently needed humanitarian aid and assistance package for the people of Artsakh. The international community, including the United States, also has an important role to play by finally recognizing the right to self-determination for the people of Artsakh and their role as a legitimate negotiating party in resolving this conflict. Absent this recognition, they will continue to face the threat of displacement by Azerbaijani and Turkish forces without any option for formal redress.

Another important component of ensuring lasting peace in the region is to hold destabilizing actors accountable. There is significant evidence that Azerbaijani and Turkish forces planned the invasion in the buildup to the September 27 assault on Nagorno-Karabakh. This evidence includes the stockpiling of armaments, including drones that killed many innocent civilians during the conflict, the July 2020 provocations by Azerbaijani troops in Armenia’s Tavush province, and several instances of large-scale joint military exercises near the Armenian border that foreshadowed the coming attacks. The United States and other international actors failed to acknowledge these warning signs and take necessary steps to prevent the sharp and unprovoked escalation of violence.

Actions that could have been taken at the time to halt Azerbaijani and Turkish aggressions included threatening sanctions on high-ranking officials from those countries and withholding aid, including ending the waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act and ceasing further military assistance through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity program. We are encouraged by Secretary Blinken’s response during the confirmation process on this subject as well.

Similarly, the United States must reassess our policy toward Turkey. Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s regime reaps the rewards of the chaos he has sown in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, the Middle East, and the South Caucasus. His deliberate destabilizing behavior, which includes the installation of Russian made anti-aircraft missiles over the threat of sanction by the United States, demands a swift and decisive correction. We must learn from the failures of an appeasement policy used by past administrations toward Turkey and use every available diplomatic and economic tool to penalize these bad actors for their aggressions and abhorrent human rights abuses. If we do not act, we risk the likelihood that the Erdogan regime will trigger an ever-expanding zone of conflict.

Finally, the United States should seek to strengthen our strategic relationship with Armenia, a young democracy that has been shaken by last year’s events and the resulting uncertainty they have caused. We urge you to identify ways we can provide additional economic assistance to Armenia to support its democracy and development as well as respond to the significant number of displaced people who have fled the conflict in Artsakh. We also request that your Administration identify ways in which our economic, cultural, and other ties to Armenia can be improved to benefit Armenia and the large Armenian American diaspora in the United States. Those steps should include the formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide by President Biden on April 24, following in the footsteps of both the House and Senate who passed resolutions recognizing the fact of the Genocide during the 116th Congress.

Thank you for attention to these important matters. We stand ready to work with you to craft a policy in the South Caucasus region that is consistent with U.S. national security, universal principles of human rights, and our democratic values. Our hope is to further discuss these issues with you and your teams at the earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress

GUS M. BILIRAKIS
Member of Congress

JACKIE SPEIER
Member of Congress

DAVID G. VALADAO
Member of Congress

ADAM B. SCHIFF
Member of Congress