US President Joe Biden met this Friday with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of the expected recognition of the Armenian genocide, in accordance with his campaign promise.
The Armenian genocide is recognized by more than twenty countries and many historians but it is vigorously contested by Turkey.
"The importance of working together"
Joe Biden expressed his willingness to build a "constructive bilateral relationship," said the White House in a brief account of the telephone exchange that evokes the need for "effective management of disagreements."
For his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that he and his American counterpart Joe Biden agreed to “build closer cooperation” on subjects of interest to their countries, allies within NATO, during their first meeting. telephone since the inauguration of the second. "The two leaders agreed on the strategic nature of the bilateral relationship and the importance of working together to build closer cooperation on matters of mutual interest," the Turkish presidency said in an account of the conversation.
Several areas of disagreement between Ankara and Washington have strained their relations: from Turkey's purchase of the Russian S400 air defense system to American support for the Syrian Kurdish militias, including the American refusal to extradite the Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, accused of orchestrating the 2016 coup against Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
During his conversation with Joe Biden, Recep Tayyip Erdogan noted that "resolve the issues of the presence of FETO (acronym used by Ankara to describe Fethullah Gülen's movement) in the United States and American support for the PKK-PYD terrorist organizations in Syria were important for advancing Turkish-American relations, ”according to the Turkish presidency.
A campaign promise to keep
Earlier today, a spokesperson for the US State Department referred to an "announcement" expected this Saturday on the "Armenian genocide", leaving little doubt about the decision of Joe Biden who had promised, before his election, to take the initiative on this file. Despite years of pressure from the Armenian community in the United States, no American president has so far dared to anger Ankara, Washington's historic ally and member of NATO. The US Congress recognized the Armenian Genocide in December 2019 in a symbolic vote, but Donald Trump refused to use the word.
Armenians estimate that a million and a half of theirs were systematically killed during World War I by troops from the Ottoman Empire, then allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary.
They commemorate this genocide every year on April 24.
"Defend the truth"
Turkey, resulting from the dismantling of the empire in 1920, recognizes massacres but rejects the term genocide, evoking a civil war in Anatolia, coupled with a famine, in which 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and as many Turks were killed .
In a meeting with advisers on Thursday, President Erdogan "indicated that he would continue to defend the truth against those who support the lie of the so-called 'Armenian genocide' (...) for political ends", according to his cabinet. without reference to the possible Joe Biden announcement.
A future meeting
"We must never forget or remain silent on this horrible and systematic campaign of extermination", stressed Joe Biden during his campaign.
"If we do not fully recognize the genocide, if we do not commemorate it, if we do not teach it, the words 'never again' mean nothing," he added.
Joe Biden's announcement will not have legal effect, but it can only worsen tensions with a Turkey that the head of the American diplomacy Antony Blinken described as "so-called strategic partner" which "by many aspects does not behave like an ally ”.
Joe Biden and Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed to meet in June on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels.
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Recep Tayyip Erdogan