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Lawmakers praise Biden for expected recognition of Armenian Genocide

Lawmakers praise Biden for expected recognition of Armenian Genocide
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers on Thursday issued statements of praise for President Biden following reports that he plans to officially recognize the killing of more than 1 million Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire more than a century ago as a genocide. 

The New York Times first reported the plans Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the matter, and U.S. officials later shared details on the anticipated move with The Associated Press

The statement by Biden, expected to come on or before Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on Saturday, would make him the first U.S. president to officially recognize the multiyear ethnic cleansing campaign as a genocide, though the Times noted Wednesday that President Reagan made a reference to the genocide once in 1981 when discussing the Holocaust.

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats reintroduce legislation to ban 'ghost guns' Juan Williams: A breakthrough on immigration? Biden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 MORE (D-N.J.), who last month led a bipartisan coalition of nearly 40 lawmakers calling on Biden to officially recognize the genocide, said in a statement Thursday that he was “honored and incredibly moved” by the president’s “reported decision to end over a century of official erasure of one of the darkest events in human history.” 

“After three decades of leading this fight in Congress, I am proud the U.S. government is poised to finally be able to say it without any euphemism: genocide is genocide,” Menendez added. “Plain and simple.”

Saturday will mark the 106th anniversary of the start of the years-long attacks against Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, which began during World War I and lasted until 1922. 

Menendez added Thursday that he was “deeply grateful for and inspired by the Armenian American community’s persistence in ensuring the Armenian genocide is recognized as an irrefutable fact of history  accepted by the United States and the rest of the world.” 

“Having the full U.S. government affirm the facts of the Armenian Genocide will send a strong signal that the truth and human rights, not ignorance and denial, shape our foreign policy,” the New Jersey senator added.

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Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE (D-N.Y.), who was also one of the senators to sign on to last month’s letter to Biden, said Thursday that the reports on Biden’s plans were “great news.” 

“It’s a long time coming and a step that I have called on presidents of both parties to take,” Schumer said in remarks from the Senate floor. “Each year, I gather with Armenian Americans in Times Square to commemorate the annual anniversary of this atrocity, and every year, my heart breaks for the victims of the genocide and their descendants.” 

Other lawmakers took to Twitter to express their praise, including Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuAsian American lawmakers say State's 'assignment restrictions' discriminate Democrats, activists blast Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Lawmakers praise Biden for expected recognition of Armenian Genocide MORE (D-Calif.), who noted that he has co-authored resolutions in the California State Legislature and in Congress calling for formal genocide recognition. 

“Thank you @POTUS for recognizing the truth and for your courage in stating it,” Lieu tweeted. 

U.S. presidents have long resisted labeling the Ottoman Empire’s actions against Armenians a genocide, as it will likely provoke Turkey, whose government acknowledges that there were killings of many Armenians during World War I but has pushed back on characterizing them as a genocide. 

On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu warned that any genocide recognition from the U.S. could negatively impact U.S.-Turkey relations. 

"Statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties," Çavuşoğlu said. "If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs."