White House Will Not Call 1915 Armenian Killings ‘Genocide’

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Armenian-American leaders express concern and outrage.

The White House told Armenian-American leaders that President Barack Obama will not use the word “genocide” this year when commemorating the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and deputy national-security adviser Ben Rhodes told a group of Armenian-American leaders Tuesday that Mr. Obama’s remarks on the killings would be consistent with those of previous years and he wouldn’t describe the event as genocide, said Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America.

Expectations had been high that Mr. Obama would use the term this year, the massacre’s centennial. Pope Francis recently used the term, and Germany said this week it would call the killings genocide. But geopolitical concerns relating to the U.S. relationship with Turkey have gotten in the way of Mr. Obama’s pledges as a presidential candidate to do so.

Mr. Hamparian, who attended the meeting, said the leaders present expressed their deep concerns about Mr. Obama’s decision.

“We’re outraged,” he said in an interview. “Turkey does not deserve a veto over U.S. human rights policy.”

A White House statement about the meeting said Messrs. McDonough and Rhodes indicated that the U.S. would mark the April 24 commemoration by urging “a full, frank, and just acknowledgment of the facts that we believe is in the interest of all parties.”

But the Obama administration has been telegraphing in recent weeks it would eschew the use of the term “genocide,” as it confirmed to Armenian leaders on Tuesday.

The Turkish embassy didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The U.S. considers Turkey to be an important partner in its coalition to fight Islamic State. Turkey agreed in February to host a training site for moderate Syrian rebels.

Mr. Cavusoglu also met with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who urged Turkey to take steps to improve relations with Armenia and open a dialogue about the 1915 killings.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) said he was “deeply disappointed” that Mr. Obama refused to acknowledge that the deaths constituted genocide and said the decision hurt the U.S. human rights record.

“The United States has long prided itself for being a beacon of human rights, for speaking out against atrocity, for confronting painful chapters of its own past and that of others,” Mr. Schiff said. “This cannot be squared with a policy of complicity in genocide denial by the president or Congress.”

Turkey has said the issue of whether the killings were genocide isn’t for modern-day governments to decide, contests the number of deaths and argues those killed were casualties of a larger armed conflict.

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