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Lapid calls on Israel to join Biden in recognizing Armenian Genocide

CM 24/04/2021

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Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid called on Israel to follow the US in recognizing the Armenian Genocide, after US President Joe Biden recognized the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as such on Saturday.“‎‏This is an important moral statement by President Biden,” Lapid tweeted. “I will continue to fight for Israeli recognition of the Armenian Genocide, it is our moral responsibility as the Jewish state.”Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said Biden’s recognition is “historic.”“The time has come for Israel to also clean itself of political interests and act for the most basic justice and recognize the Armenian Genocide. The Jewish state cannot lend a hand to attempts to erase history,” she stated.Lapid and Zandberg were involved in past efforts for the Knesset to recognize the Armenian Genocide.The Foreign Ministry said that “the State of Israel recognizes the terrible suffering and the tragedy of the Armenian people. Especially at this time, we and the nations of the world must be responsible to ensure that such events are not repeated.”

The Government of Israel has not recognized the genocide or articulated a specific policy on the matter, but the Knesset has recognized it in various forms. President Reuven Rivlin called to recognize the Armenian Genocide when he was Knesset speaker but has avoided using the term as president. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also called for recognition when he was Knesset speaker. Rivlin and Israeli lawmakers have attended official Armenian memorials for victims of the genocide.The government generally avoided recognizing the Armenian Genocide out of concern over antagonizing Turkey. Those ties have been tense for the past decade, though Turkey has made overtures in recent months, including inviting Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz this week to a conference in June.In recent years, there has also been a concern over recognition impacting relations with Azerbaijan, a major supplier of oil to Israel, which fought a war with Armenia last year.Biden’s declaration on Saturday infuriated Turkey and is set to further strain frayed ties between the two NATO allies.The largely symbolic move, breaking away from decades of carefully calibrated language from the White House, will likely to be celebrated by the Armenian diaspora in the United States, but comes at a time when Ankara and Washington have deep policy disagreements over a host of issues.Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey “entirely rejects” the US decision which he said was based “solely on populism”.Biden’s message was met with “great enthusiasm” by the people of Armenia and Armenians worldwide, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote in a letter to the US president.In his statement, Biden said the American people honor “all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today.””Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history … We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated,” Biden said.In comments that sought to soften the blow, a senior administration official told reporters that Washington encouraged Armenia and Turkey to pursue reconciliation and continues to view Ankara as a critical NATO ally.For decades, measures recognizing the Armenian Genocide stalled in the US Congress and US presidents have refrained from calling it that, stymied by concerns about relations with Turkey and intense lobbying by Ankara.Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.A year ago, while still a presidential candidate, Biden commemorated the 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children who lost their lives in the final years of the Ottoman Empire and said he would back efforts to recognize those killings as a genocide.Ties between Ankara and Washington have been strained over issues ranging from Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems – over which it was the target of U.S. sanctions – to policy differences in Syria, human rights and a court case targeting Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank.Biden’s declaration follows a non-binding resolution by the US Senate adopted unanimously in 2019 recognizing the killings as genocide.Previous US presidents have abandoned campaign promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide for fear of damaging US-Turkish relations, said Nicholas Danforth, non-resident fellow for The Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy.”With relations already in shambles, there was nothing to stop Biden from following through,” said Danforth. “Ankara has no allies left in the US government to lobby against this and Washington isn’t worried whether it angers Turkey anymore.”Erdogan had established a close bond with former US president Donald Trump, but since Biden took over, Washington has grown more vocal about Turkey’s human rights track record. It has also stood firm on its demand that Ankara get rid of the Russian defense systems.Biden had also delayed having a telephone conversation with Erdogan until Friday — seen largely as a cold shoulder to the Turkish president — when he informed him of his decision to recognize the massacres as genocide.Saturday’s announcement was slammed by the Turkish government and several opposition politicians. Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Biden’s remarks “only repeat the accusations of those whose sole agenda is enmity towards our country.””We advise the US President to look at (his country’s) own past and present,” Kalin wrote on Twitter.
Source: Jerusalem Post

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