President Joe Biden told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday that he intends to recognize the events of 1915 as genocide, sources familiar with the conversation told Reuters, which said the move may be a potential blow to the already frayed ties between the U.S. and Turkey.
Major media outlets, among them The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Guardian, quoting Biden Administration sources, on Wednesday reported that Biden would use the word genocide to characterize the events of 1915. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told The New York Times that an announcement would be forthcoming Saturday.
Biden’s predecessors, starting with President Barack Obama, have referred to the Armenian Genocide as “Medz Yeghern”—the Armenian term used to describe a great calamity. Biden is expected to break with that tradition.
Biden held a telephone conversation with Erdogan on Friday, a day before the worldwide Armenian Genocide remembrance day.
The White House readout of the call did not mention the discussion around the Armenian Genocide. Erdogan’s statement on the call also did not cover the topic.
“President Biden spoke today with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, conveying his interest in a constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements,” the White House said in a statement. “The leaders agreed to hold a bilateral meeting on the margins of the NATO summit in June to discuss the full range of bilateral and regional issues.”
Reuters reported on Friday that a statement from the Turkish presidency said Biden and Erdogan agreed on “the strategic character of the bilateral relationship and the importance of working together to build greater cooperation on issues of mutual interest.”