What Joe Biden Has Said About Armenian Genocide

President Joe Biden is on the cusp of formally recognizing the Armenian massacre by the Ottoman Empire more than 100 years ago as an act of genocide, fulfilling a promise he made on the campaign trail.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that the White House was moving to break with tradition and refer to the massacre as genocide on April 24, the date of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

However, the news wire reported that the president could back out of the plan if he believes it will damage U.S. relations with Turkey. Ankara is expected to be angered by the move, should it go ahead.

Asked if Biden would call the Armenian massacre an act of genocide in time for the Saturday memorial, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: "I expect we will have more to say about Remembrance Day on Saturday. But I don't have anything to get ahead of that at this point in time."

Joe Biden White House
President Joe Biden is reportedly planning to refer to mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as an act of genocide. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The reported move to recognize the mass killings as an act of genocide has come after Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) penned an open letter to the president calling on him to honor his campaign promise.

"On behalf of hundreds of thousands of Armenian Americans, the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren of genocide survivors, I ask you: Keep that promise," the open letter read. "Recognize the Armenian Genocide." More than 100 lawmakers representing both parties signed the open letter.

Speaking about the massacre as a then-presidential candidate, Biden openly called the killings an act of genocide. The president called the massacre "the Armenian Genocide" in a campaign statement issued last year.

"We must never forget or remain silent about this horrific and systematic campaign of extermination," he said at the time. "And we will forever respect the perseverance of the Armenian people in the wake of such tragedy."

He then pledged to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide should he be elected president, and said he would make "universal human rights a top priority" for his administration.

Posting on social media on September 21, 2019, the then-candidate tweeted: "Today is a day to celebrate Armenia's democratic progress and to honor Armenia's history. That history is not complete unless we recognize, once and for all, the Metz Yeghern—the Armenian Genocide."

Armenians have long called the Ottoman Empire's mass killings of its people during the First World War a deliberate attempt to exterminate them. Turkish authorities have accepted killings took place but has disputed that they were acts of genocide, or part of any plot to destroy the Armenian people.

President Biden has not spoken to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan since his inauguration in January—a marked split from former President Donald Trump's relations with the leader.