U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to call his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on April 23, in a first-ever contact between the two leaders since Biden's inauguration in January.
The phone call might come just a day before Biden is expected to recognize the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
The anticipated phone call has prompted questions regarding if Biden will inform Erdoğan whether he will recognize the 1915 events as a genocide or consider alternate options.
The New York Times reported on April 21 that Biden will use the word "genocide" as part of his statement on April 24, citing officials familiar with the internal debate.
Erdoğan has toned down his anti-US rhetoric in an apparent effort to reset the rocky relationship with his NATO ally, but so far he’s been met by silence from Biden.
Over three months into his presidency, Biden still hasn’t called Erdoğan, which is seen as a worrying sign. By contrast, former U.S. President Donald Trump and Erdoğan spoke just days after the 2016 election.
Biden's move to recognize the massacre of Armenians as an act of genocide would be largely symbolic but would mean breaking away from decades of carefully calibrated language from the White House and come at a time when Ankara and Washington are already at loggerheads over a string of issues.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on April 21 told reporters the White House would likely have "more to say" about the issue on April 24, but declined to elaborate.
The State Department referred queries on the issue to the White House and National Security Council had no comment beyond what Psaki said.
A year ago, while still a presidential candidate, Biden commemorated the 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children who lost their lives in the final years of the Ottoman Empire and said he would back efforts to recognize those killings as a genocide.
"Today, we remember the atrocities faced by the Armenian people in the Metz Yeghern — the Armenian Genocide. If elected, I pledge to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide and will make universal human rights a top priority," he said on Twitter at the time.
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.