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National Interest: Why the US Should Pressure Turkey on Human Rights

In this incisive article in the foreign policy journal National Interest, David L. Phillips, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, and former ambassador Mark Wallace explain why the imminent official recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the US government is so important for US/Turkey relations and Turkey’s relations with the rest of the world as well. They also elucidate the key reasons why this recognition should herald a new emphasis on human rights in the US relationship with Turkey, which if implemented could relieve some of the pressure on the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

How Human Rights Should Drive Biden’s Relationship with Turkey

Placing pressure on Ankara is the right thing to do, both morally and strategically.

by David L. Phillips Mark Wallace

The decline in relations between the United States and Turkey during the reign of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unparalleled in our ninety-four-year history with the modern Turkish state—and it is about to get worse. President Joe Biden is expected to become the first president to recognize the Armenian genocide this month. It is important, necessary, and more than a century overdue. It will still be tough medicine for Erdogan to swallow though and a harsh response is likely. Recognizing the genocide will spark reformist-minded Turks to reckon with the past and would help jump-start the country’s return to more democratic, accountable, and Western-facing policies.

Facing history will help Turkey take responsibility for what the overwhelming majority of historians say is a genocide: the deportation and murder of a million-and-a-half Armenians. Biden, too, recognizes it as such. He repeatedly called for the United States to recognize the Armenian genocide during his career in the Senate and reaffirmed his position as a candidate for the presidency, warning that “if we do not fully acknowledge, commemorate and teach our children about genocide, the words ‘never again’ lose their meaning.”

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