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.
As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama did describe the killings of Armenians as genocide and said the US government had a responsibility to recognise it as such.
As a candidate in January 2008, Obama had 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.
Several US officials said there had been a sharp internal debate over whether to use the 100-year anniversary to call the killings “genocide” and make good on the president’s campaign promise, particularly after Pope Francis used the term earlier this month.
That comment by the pope prompted an angry response from Turkey, which recalled its ambassador to the Vatican over the matter. Several European governments and parliaments are also expected to use the word in discussions of the events 100 years ago.
Some at the State Department, particularly those who deal directly with Turkey and its neighbours in the Middle East, as well as at the Pentagon, argued against using the word, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
They said the damage it would cause to US relations with Turkey at a critical time, notably when Washington needs Ankara’s help in fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, would far outweigh the immediate benefits. The safety of US diplomats and troops in Turkey was also a consideration, the officials said.
Hussein sides again with Muslims including the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood who also Backs Turkey on Armenian Genocide.