A fact of history has eventually been recognised. More than a hundred years after World War I ended, President Joe Biden has delved into history, recognising the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman empire as genocide. The Eastern Question and the ferment thereof has been revived again. Mr Biden’s recognition of the mass killings fulfills a campaign promise and was advanced on the same day Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day was observed in Armenia and by the Armenian diaspora. “Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Biden said in a statement. “The American people honour all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today.” Sad to reflect that events have made the use of the word “genocide” quite frequent. Only last weekend, the House of Commons severely condemned the treatment of Uighurs in China as “genocide”. Which is not to forget the brutal persecution of freedom fighters by the Pakistan army during the liberation struggle of 1971. Fifty years after, it is the grandstanding over liberation and the centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that has generated a romantic euphoria on either side of the border. The persecution by General Yahya Khan’s forces has been relegated to the footnotes of the subcontinent’s history.
Last Saturday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the US Ambassador, David Satterfield, to Ankara, according to an official statement. The Deputy Foreign Minister, Sedat Onal, told Satterfield that Ankara rejected Biden’s comment and “found it unacceptable and condemned it in the stongest terms.” The statement, Turkey claimed, has caused a “wound in ties that will be hard to repair.” The nub of the matter must be that Mr Biden had expressed his regret in good faith, as absolute as it was sincere. During his campaign for President last year, Mr Biden said he would “support a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide and will make universal human rights a top priority.” In a letter last Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 100 members of the House of Representatives urged him to become the first US President to recognize the killings as genocide. “The shameful silence of the United States Government on the historic fact of the Armenian genocide has gone on for too long, and it must end,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to follow through on your commitments and speak the truth.” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier this week that Biden’s characterisation of the killings would harm relations between the NATO allies. In his reckoning, Mr Biden’s recognition “distorts the historical facts, will never be accepted.”