President Joe Biden is poised to formally declare that the massacres of Armenians in the early 20th century constituted genocide, U.S. officials said, a rare step that would further inflame ties with Turkey.
Biden is expected to describe as genocide the deportation, starvation and massacres of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks beginning in 1915, the officials said.
The language would come as part of an annual statement coinciding with a day of remembrance on Saturday. Officials added no final decisions or briefings have taken place and that Mr. Biden could opt to issue the symbolic statement without describing the killings as genocide, as have other presidents.
Turkey denies the killings constituted genocide, saying that Armenians rose up against the government. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Haberturk television on Tuesday that a declaration by Mr. Biden would only harm ties. A spokesman for the Turkish embassy in Washington had no immediate comment.
Most historians recognize the Ottoman Empire’s treatment of Armenians and members of other ethnic and religious minorities from 1915 to 1923 as a genocide.
Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign said the month before the November election that he would “recognize the Armenian genocide and make universal human rights a top priority for his administration so that such a tragedy can never again occur.”
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