WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday said the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide, a historic declaration that is set to infuriate Turkey and potentially further damage frayed ties between the two NATO allies.
The largely symbolic move, breaking away from decades of carefully calibrated language from the White House, will likely to be celebrated by the Armenian diaspora in the United States, but comes at a time when Ankara and Washington have deep policy disagreements over a host of issues.
"The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today," Biden said in a statement.
"Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history ... We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated," he said.
For decades, measures recognizing the Armenian genocide stalled in the U.S. Congress and U.S. presidents have refrained from calling it that, stymied by concerns about relations with Turkey and intense lobbying by Ankara.
Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.