Armeania celebrated President Joe Biden‘s recognition of the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide on Saturday, as Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador and strongly condemned the move.
“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 released on the annual Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
In acknowledging of the deaths of 1.5 million Armeanians as genocide, Biden went further than his predecessors in the White House after years of careful language on the issue. The move risks fracturing America’s relationship with Turkey, a longtime U.S. ally and NATO partner.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sent Biden a letter praising his statement. “I highly appreciate your principled position, which is a powerful step on the way to acknowledging the truth, historical justice, and an invaluable of support for the descendants of the victims of the Armenian Genocide,” Pashinyan wrote.
In a tweet, Armenian President Armen Sirkissian stated that the move “opens new prospects for US-Armenian relations. It also makes this world a better place!”
Meanwhile, officials in Turkey quickly denounced Biden’s remarks and summoned the US Ambassador to Ankara.
In a statement, Turkey said its foreign minister, Sedat Onal, has told ambassador David Satterfield that Biden’s remarks caused “wounds in ties that will be hard to repair.” Onal also reportedly told Satterfield that Turkey “rejected it, found it unacceptable and condemned in the strongest terms.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “We have lived together in peace in this land for centuries, we find peace under the shadow of our crescent and star flag.”
Ankara acknowledges that many Armenians were killed amid clashes in the Ottoman Empire, but refutes the number of deceased and insists that the events should not be considered a genocide.
During his 2020 presidential race, Biden’s campaign promised that if elected, “Joe will recognize the Armenian Genocide and make universal human rights a top priority for his administration so that such a tragedy can never occur again.”
Earlier this week, a group of 100 bipartisan lawmakers signed a letter spearheaded by California Rep. Adam Schiff urging Biden to stand by his word and “recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
Americans of Armenian descent also celebrated the move on Saturday. In an Instagram post, reality TV star Khloe Kardashian wrote, “Thank you for honoring the stories, the pain, suffering and loss of the Armenian people. Today we honor our ancestors on Armenian Remembrance Day.”
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment. This story will be updated with any response.