U.S. officials say President Joe Biden is preparing to recognize the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
The officials, who spoke to several news agencies on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive topic, said the move could come Saturday, an annual day of commemoration for the victims.
During his campaign for president last year, Biden said he would “support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide and will make universal human rights a top priority.”
“I expect we will have more to say about Remembrance Day on Saturday,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday when asked about Biden’s commitment. “But I don't have anything to get ahead of that at this point in time.”
In a letter Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives urged Biden to become the first U.S. 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 this week a move by Biden to recognize the killings as genocide would harm relations between the NATO allies.
Historians say an estimated 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Empire — the predecessor to modern-day Turkey — between 1915 and 1923.
Armenians say they were purposely targeted for extermination through starvation, forced labor, deportation, death marches, and outright massacres.
Turkey denies a genocide or any deliberate plan to wipe out the Armenians. They say many of the victims were casualties of the war or murdered by Russians. Turkey also says the number of Armenians killed was far fewer than the usually accepted figure of 1.5 million.