Vacclav/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House is expected to make a statement on Friday on the centennial of the killings of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks, but will not refer to the slayings as a “genocide,” as many advocates have called for President Obama to do, and as he promised to do while a presidential candidate in 2008.
“We know and respect that there are some who are hoping to hear different language this year,” said a senior administration official. “We understand their perspective, even as we believe that the approach we have taken in previous years remains the right one — both for acknowledging the past, and for our ability to work with regional partners to save lives in the present.”
Pope Francis caused controversy last weekend when he referred to the killings as a genocide. At his Sunday mass, the pope called the tragedy the first genocide of the 20th century.
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama wrote on his campaign website that “the facts are undeniable…an official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy.” He further stated, directly “as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, called Obama’s decision not to refer to the killings as a genocide “a national disgrace.” Put simply, he adds, “it is…a betrayal of trust.”
“Obama will, tragically, use the moral standing of our nation not to defend the truth, but rather to enforce a foreign power’s gag-rule,” Hachikian said.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will lead a Presidential delegation to the Armenian capital of Yerevan on April 24 for a ceremony.
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