By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to fulfill a campaign promise and use the politically fraught term on the 100th anniversary of the killings this week. Officials decided against it after opposition from some at the State Department and the Pentagon.
After more than a week of internal debate, top administration officials discussed the final decision with Armenian-American leaders Tuesday before making it public. The White House said the officials pledged that the US would use Friday’s centennial anniversary “to urge a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts.” That language echoed the administration’s five previous statements on the anniversary, as well as those of previous administrations. But it did not use the word “genocide,” as many had hoped.
As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama did describe the killings of Armenians as “genocide” and said the US government had a responsibility to recognize them as such. As a candidate in January 2008, Obama pledged to recognize the genocide and at least one of his campaign surrogates — the current US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power — recorded a nearly five-minute video at the time imploring Armenian-Americans to vote for Obama precisely because he would keep his word on the issue.
But Obama has never used that description since taking office, mainly out of deference to Turkey, a key US partner and NATO ally, which is fiercely opposed to the “genocide” label.