Obama Administration Vague on Genocide Recognition

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest

WASHINGTON (RFE/RL)—The White House has declined to clarify whether U.S. President Barack Obama will use the word “genocide” in his upcoming annual statement on the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.

Obama is facing growing pressure from the Armenian community in the United States to finally honor his 2008 campaign pledges to recognize the genocide on its 100th anniversary that will be marked on April 24.

Armenian-American leaders have urged him in recent days to follow the example of Pope Francis who described the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians as “the first genocide of the 20th century” during a landmark Vatican Mass on Sunday. They have also seized upon a similar resolution that was passed by the European Parliament earlier this week.

“The president and senior administration officials have repeatedly acknowledged as historical fact that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire,” the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, told a news briefing in Washington late on Thursday.

“We have further stated that we mourn those deaths and that a full, frank and just acknowledgement of facts is in the interests of everybody, including Turkey, Armenia and the United States. That is our position,” he said.

Asked whether Obama will utter the word genocide on April 24, Earnest said, “This has been our policy, position and approach to this issue for a number of years now. It is customary for the president to issue a statement on this terrible historical event later in the month of April and I wouldn’t anticipate any updates on our policy until then.”

Obama vowed to ensure an explicit U.S. recognition of the genocide when he ran for president in 2008. “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that president,” he said at the time.

Obama backpedaled on that pledge after becoming president, anxious not to anger Turkey. In his statements on the subject made until now he has used instead the Armenian phrase Meds Yeghern, or Great Calamity, to honor the Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks.

Alexander Arzumanian, a pro-West Armenian opposition member of parliament, claimed on Friday that Obama might publicly recognize the genocide this time around. “The U.S. administration is split [on the issue,]” he said. “A part of it insists that the word genocide be used, while another disagrees, citing national interests.”

“The situation is really different right now,” Arzumanian told reporters in Yerevan.

In a further sign of a possible U.S. policy change, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will fly to Washington on Saturday to meet Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama’s chief national security adviser, Susan Rice. According to Hurriyet Daily News, the genocide issue will be the main focus of the talks.

“One of the principles that has guided the administration’s work in this area and in atrocity prevention more broadly has been that nations grow strong by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of their past and that doing so is essential for building a foundation for a more just and more tolerant future,” Earnest said on Thursday.


Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.


  1. State-Of-Emergency said:

    There is a remote chance of it being used this time around. Turkey does not have as much leverage as it once did. The only reason Turkey is helping Daesh is because it is desperate. Turkey is afraid that the group will invade and cause havoc in eastern Turkey. In order to preserve the peace on its territory, it has cut a deal where they facilitate the group’s actions in return for non interference in Turkish territory. The US knows this and can use the opportunity to strike at Turkey’s Achilles heel.


    I hope someone is prepared to publicize Cavusolglu coming for the express reason to influence genocide denial by turkey. great coverage by ASBAREZ. THANX

  3. Jove said:

    Obama can not say anything on his own. Obama is surrounded by advisers, counsellors, speech writers and brain feeders. He will say what his entourage tells him to say. The Armenian strategy in the USA should change by targeting the puppeteers in the state dept. who pulled the presidents strings. The president in the USA is a tool in the hand of those who lead him on what to do , to say, and how to say it. The unseen forces behind the curtains

  4. Jen said:

    He could just say it anytime he wants, he will not call it a genocide, why would he make Muslims look bad? Also the Jewish lobby still does not want it