Biden has established a blueprint for calling world leaders to warn them of his administration’s upcoming moves that will irritate the report. Last week, days before sanctions against Russia go into effect, Biden also called Russian President Vladimir Putin to anticipate sanctions that have been put in place to punish Moscow for its interference in the 2020 U.S. election, the its SolarWinds cyberattack and its ongoing occupation and “grave human rights violations” in Crimea.
Later on Friday, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, Hasan Murat Mercan, has a White House meeting with a National Security Council official, according to sources familiar with the conversation between the two presidents. The ambassador received his accreditation from the White House earlier this week, paving the way for him to assume his responsibilities as ambassador and this will be the ambassador’s first meeting with officials from the Biden administration.
As vice president, Biden dealt with Erdoğan frequently and made four trips to Turkey, including in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt. But he has since offered a far from rosy point of view of the Turkish leader.
Biden spoke on the phone with Erdoğan on Friday, his first conversation with the Turkish leader since he took office. The long period of no communication has been interpreted as a sign that Biden is attaching less importance to the future US relationship with Turkey.
In a reading of the call, the White House said Biden “broadcasts[ed] his interest in a constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements “.
Earlier this week, US officials had sent signals to allies outside the administration – who were pushing for an official statement – that the president would acknowledge the genocide. Addressing the potential move in an interview with a Turkish broadcaster this week, the Turkish foreign minister said: “If the US wants to worsen relations, the decision is theirs.”
The government of Turkey often records complaints when foreign governments describe the event, which began in 1915, using the word “genocide”. They claim it was wartime and there were casualties on both sides, and they estimated the number of Armenians dead at 300,000.
Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both avoided using the word genocide to avoid angering Ankara.
The declaration will not bring with it new legal consequences for Turkey, but only diplomatic fallout.
The number of Armenians killed was a major point of contention. Estimates range from 300,000 to 2 million deaths between 1914 and 1923, with not all casualties in the Ottoman Empire. But most of the estimates – including one of 800,000 between 1915 and 1918, made by the Ottoman authorities themselves – fall between 600,000 and 1.5 million.
Whether due to killings or forced deportation, the number of Armenians living in Turkey dropped from 2 million in 1914 to less than 400,000 in 1922.
While the death toll is up for debate, photographs from the time document some mass killings. Some show Ottoman soldiers posing with their heads severed, others with them standing amidst skulls in the earth. The victims reportedly died in mass fires and from drowning, torture, gas, poison, disease and starvation. It was reported that the children were loaded onto boats, taken overboard and thrown overboard. Rape was also frequently reported.
In 2019, the House and Senate passed a resolution recognizing the mass killings of Armenians from 1915 to 1923 as genocide. Prior to his passage, the Trump administration had repeatedly asked Republican senators to block the request for unanimous consent several times on the grounds that it could weaken negotiations with Turkey.
This story has been updated with more information.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.