An American father and son will serve prison time for helping ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn in his dramatic escape from Japan in a box

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn wears a black suit jacket, white shirt and pink tie.
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn faces charges of financial misconduct in Japan

  • Two Americans will serve prison time for helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan in 2019.
  • Michael and Peter Taylor admitted to assisting Ghosn’s escape to Lebanon in a metal box.
  • Ghosn was on bail and facing trial in Japan on charges of financial misconduct.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Japanese court sentenced an American father and son to prison for their role in helping smuggle former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon in 2019.

Former US special forces veteran Michael Taylor, 60, was sentenced to two years in prison on Monday for aiding the escape of a criminal, while his son Peter Taylor, 28, was given a one year and eight month-term on the same charges, per the Associated Press.

The Taylors admitted in June to helping the ex-Nissan chairman escape on a private jet from Japan where he had been facing a trial over financial misconduct charges. US authorities arrested the pair in Massachusetts in May 2020 and extradited them to Japan in March this year, per the AP.

Prosecutors said Michael Taylor met Ghosn’s wife Carole in Lebanon in June 2019 where she convinced him to help orchestrate her husband’s escape, The Wall Street Journal reported. The younger Taylor met with Ghosn during numerous trips to Japan over the next few months, with Ghosn transferring more than $860,000 to his marketing firm to finance the plan, the prosecutors said, per the WSJ.

On December 29 2019, the elder Taylor traveled with another man, George-Antoine Zayek, to Kansai International Airport in Osaka posing as musicians. The pair brought a large metal box normally used to transport audio equipment to hide Ghosn, drilling breathing holes in the side, The Washington Post reported, citing Japanese prosecutors.

Read more: Carlos Ghosn’s transformation from business icon to international fugitive was entirely predictable, industry leaders say. But his next act could surprise everyone.

That same day, Ghosn traveled with the elder Taylor and Zayek to a hotel close to Kansai airport. Only Taylor and Zayek were spotted leaving the building with the metal box. Zayek has not been arrested, The Washington Post reported.

The men helped Ghosn board a private jet from Osaka to Istanbul, and then on to Beirut. Ghosn told the BBC in a recent interview that waiting for the plan to take off was “probably the longest wait” of his life. Lebanon, where Ghosn spent time as a child, does not have an extradition agreement with Japan.

“Because of this case, Ghosn, a defendant facing serious charges, was able to escape overseas,” Chief Judge Hideo Nirei told the courtroom Monday, per The Washington Post, which cited media pool reports from the court hearing. “It has been one and a half years since the escape, and there is still no prospect of a trial. The consequences of this case are very large.”

Japanese authorities arrested Ghosn in 2018 on charges of financial mismanagement. He is accused of underreporting his pay over multiple years and breach of trust, by using Nissan finances for his own personal gain. He denies all charges.

Nissan did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Cryptocurrencies are taking the developing world by storm, with more users now in Nigeria than in the US – 2 experts lay out how bitcoin is changing emerging-market finance

Globe
Globe

  • Insider spoke to James Butterfill from CoinShares and Marius Reitz from Luno in Africa about bitcoin in the developing world.
  • El Salvador recently made bitcoin legal tender and other governments may follow suit.
  • Cryptocurrencies can bring finance to the “unbanked” and help counter volatile domestic currencies, the two experts said.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Cryptocurrencies have made it into the mainstream this year, with crypto-backed bank cards, investment products and traders, both big and small, have got in on the action, driving the likes of bitcoin, ether and dogecoin to record highs.

In the developing world, crypto adoption is growing at breakneck speed. Young, fast-growing populations that lack access to traditional finance, but have smartphones, from Brazil to Botswana, are driving the surge in the use of cryptocurrencies.

James Butterfill, who is an investment strategist at CoinShares, the largest crypto exchange traded product provider in Europe, and Marius Reitz, the general manager in Africa of crypto exchange Luno discussed the social benefits of bitcoin for the developing world.

“In third-world countries, we are seeing the take-up of bitcoin. If you look at bitcoin volume growth, it’s massive,” Butterfill told Insider.

For example, according to a Statista survey of global consumers in February, nearly one in three of those polled in Nigeria said they owned, or used, cryptocurrencies, versus just 6 out of every 100 in the United States, in 2020.

El Salvador’s recent decision to make bitcoin legal tender is an example of how developing countries are using crypto. The World Bank recently said it would not work with the country on its cryptocurrency plans because of how volatile it believes these assets are.

The amount of bitcoin that changes hands in emerging economies is exploding. Trading volumes in Brazil have risen 2,247% year-on-year in 2021, while in Venezuela, where political turmoil has created hyperinflation and economic crisis, crypto trading volumes have risen 833% in the last 12 months, according to data provider Kaiko.

In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, trading volumes have risen 128% year on year, and in Turkey, where inflation and economic decline have hit the lira, they’re up 143%, based on Kaiko’s data.

Bitcoin has been trading between $40,000 and $31,900 over the last month, but has moved between lows of $30,000 and to highs of as much as $63,500 over the course of 2021. Despite its volatility, consumers in developing countries love it.

There are about 1.7 billion people that are considered “unbanked”. However, around 48% of the global population has a smartphone and that percentage, in theory, have access to the internet, and therefore, cryptocurrencies, Butterfill said.

In Latin America, only 30% of the population over the age of 15 have a bank account, according to 2019 data by consultant Mckinsey.

“I think that really is a positive thing that bitcoin’s helping the unbanked be bankable,” Butterfill said.

A closer look at Africa

Crypto use has also grown in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

“One region that may go unnoticed in the development and usage of cryptocurrencies, is Africa. The continent is one of, if not the most promising, regions for the adoption of cryptocurrencies due to its unique combination of economic and demographic trends,” Luno’s Reitz said.

One of the key factors that is encouraging people in Africa to use cryptocurrency is the cost of transferring money. The World Bank reported in 2020 that sending money to Africa via traditional bank transfer cost an average fee of 8.9% compared to the global average of 6.8%.

Sending money abroad, or even receiving funds from overseas, is littered with additional costs, including exchange rates and this is where crypto is helping fill that gap.

“It’s either really expensive, or really difficult to do. So, with something like bitcoin, you can have an international bank account and it costs you virtually nothing, that’s what’s really powerful about it,” CoinShares’ Butterfill said.

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Biden taps former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake to be US ambassador to Turkey amid growing tensions with Erdogan

Jeff Flake
  • President Joe Biden has nominated Jeff Flake to be US ambassador to Turkey.
  • The former GOP senator would assume the role amid historic tensions between the US and Turkey.
  • Turkey is a NATO ally, but Erdogan’s autocratic leadership style has strained US-Turkey relations.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona to be the US ambassador to Turkey.

If confirmed for the ambassadorship in the Senate, Flake would assume the role at a time when US-Turkey relations have hit a historic low. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian approach to leadership has strained the dynamic between Washington and Ankara in recent years.

Various foreign policy moves Erdogan has taken, such as targeting the US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria and purchasing the Russian S-400 missile defense system, have exacerbated the tensions.

Biden and Erdogan have also traded barbs from across the world and clashed on major issues on more than one occasion.

During the 2020 campaign season, the Turkish government expressed outrage after Biden referred to Erdogan as an “autocrat.” More recently, Erdogan in March excoriated Biden for referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer,” stating that it was “truly unacceptable, not something that can be stomached.” Biden’s formal recognition of the Armenian genocide in April also infuriated Erdogan, with Turkey warning that the move created a “deep wound” in relations.

That said, the US considers Turkey to be an important NATO ally, and the president and his Turkish counterpart played nice when they met face-to-face for the first time since Biden’s inauguration in Brussels last month. Biden said they had a “good” meeting.

Navigating this tense relationship as the top US diplomat in Ankara could prove to be a difficult task.

Flake, who retired from the Senate in 2019, is among the most high profile ambassador nominees put forward by Biden so far.

“Given the strategic importance of the United States’ relationship with our long-time NATO Ally, the Republic of Turkey, I am honored and humbled by the trust President Biden has placed in me with this ambassadorial nomination,” Flake said in a Medium post on Tuesday. “This is a pivotal post at an important time for both of our countries.”

“With this nomination, the Biden Administration reaffirms the best tradition of American foreign policy and diplomacy: the credo that partisan politics should stop at the water’s edge. U.S. foreign policy can and should be bipartisan,” Flake went on to say.

Flake broke from the GOP during the 2020 election cycle and endorsed Biden over then-President Donald Trump. The Arizona Republican was among Trump’s most vocal critics in the Senate. Flake continued to lambast Trump after leaving Congress, and in February condemned Senate Republicans who voted to acquit the former president during his second impeachment trial over the fatal January 6 insurrection.

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Biden and Erdogan play nice at NATO summit, showing the US and Turkey still need each other despite tensions

Biden and Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets President Joe Biden ahead of their meeting within the NATO summit at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, on June 14, 2021.

  • Biden and Erdogan met on Monday with US-Turkey relations at a historic low.
  • It’s unclear what they discussed specifically but Biden said the meeting was “good.”
  • Erdogan’s autocratic leadership style and purchase of a Russian missile defense system has strained ties.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the first time as commander-in-chief on Monday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, and the leaders were all smiles despite recent tensions.

That both leaders were on their best behavior and presented a united front was indicative of fact the US and Turkey still need one another despite recent disagreements.

Images of Biden and Erdogan showed them fist-bumping as they met at the NATO summit, and the Turkish president’s official Twitter account shared images of them talking, smiling, and bumping elbows.

As of Monday afternoon, it remained unclear what specific issues Biden and Erdogan discussed.

Without offering specifics or elaborating further, Biden told reporters at the end, “We had a very good meeting.”

Relations between the US and Turkey are at a historic low, with Erdogan’s increasingly anti-democratic behavior and moves like the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system driving a wedge between Washington and Ankara.

Erdogan had an amicable relationship with former President Donald Trump, but his approach to foreign policy put Turkey and the US at odds so often that even the Trump administration took moves to punish the Turkish government.

Biden and Erdogan have a particularly contentious dynamic. They had only spoken once prior to their meeting on Monday. On the 2020 campaign trail Biden referred to Erdogan as an autocrat, which prompted outrage from the Turkish government. In March, Erdogan slammed Biden for referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer,” stating it was “truly unacceptable, not something that can be stomached.”

More recently, Biden’s formal recognition of the Armenian genocide infuriated Erdogan, with Turkey warning that the move created a “deep wound” in relations between the two countries.

Despite the evident animosity and strains on relations, the US continues to view Turkey as an important NATO ally. By virtue of the fact it’s located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey has also long been viewed as an important partner from a geo-strategic standpoint. The US also stores nuclear weapons in Turkey, which is another reason Washington wants to stay on its good side.

Meanwhile, Erdogan, who is facing low approval ratings and a struggling economy, can’t afford to further alienate the US.

Accordingly, the Turkish leader softened his tone ahead of his Monday meeting with Biden, and said both countries need to put their troubles behind them.

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Turkey’s president vows to ‘save’ the country from the largest outbreak of ‘sea snot’ on record

 Turkey's Marmara Sea, sea snot
An aerial view showing ‘sea snot’ on Turkey’s Marmara Sea on June 4, 2021.

  • Turkey’s Sea of Marmara has seen the largest outbreak of “sea snot” on record.
  • The President has promised to “save our seas” from the substance caused by pollution.
  • It is causing problems for marine life and the fishing industry.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Turkey’s President Erdogan has promised to save the country’s seas from “sea snot,” a slimy layer of gray or green sludge that could endanger marine life and the fishing industry.

The substance, which is known as marine mucilage or “sea snot,” forms when algae are overloaded with nutrients due to climate change and water pollution.

It was first discovered in 2007, and later in the Aegean Sea near Greece. The latest outbreak, found in the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul, is thought to be the largest in history, BBC News and Sky News report.

“We will save our seas from this mucilage calamity, leading with the Marmara Sea. We must take this step without delay,” President Erdogan said in a statement, according to Sky News.

turkey sea snot 2
The sea Harbour.

Erdogan blamed untreated sewage being dumped in the sea and rising temperatures. He added that “the trouble will be enormous” if the substance expands to the Black Sea, BBC News reports.

The Turkish government has dispatched a team to inspect the potential sources of pollution in the sea.

The Sea of Marmara is an inland sea separating the Asiatic and European parts of Turkey, spanning 175 miles long from northeast to southwest and 50 miles wide at its greatest width. It is connected to the Black Sea through the Bosphorus – a waterway also known as the Strait of Istanbul – on the northeast.

BBC News reports that fishermen traveling through the sea are prevented from working as the “sea snot” is clogging up their motors and nets.

The publication added that divers have reported a large number of fish and other species dying due to suffocation.

“Due to the overgrowth of the mucilage, several species are under threat [including] oysters, mussels, sea stars,” Professor Bayram Ozturk of the Turkish Marine Research told the BBC. “It’s a real catastrophe.”

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Biden’s first trip abroad will be a whirlwind of major meetings with key allies and top rivals

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden boards Air Force One before departing from Tulsa International Airport in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 1, 2021.

  • Biden has a jam-packed schedule for his first trip abroad.
  • He’s meeting with everyone from Queen Elizabeth to Vladimir Putin.
  • Biden will travel to several countries: the UK, Belgium, and Switzerland.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden will take his first trip abroad as commander-in-chief this month, featuring a slew of important meetings with important US allies as well as top adversaries.

In many ways, the trip will be an audition for Biden on the global stage as he seeks to repair the strains placed on historic alliances during the Trump era. Biden has repeatedly stated that “America is back” now that he’s in office, and this is his chance to prove it to the world.

Biden will be meeting with everyone from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Queen Elizabeth to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’ll attend a G7 summit, a NATO summit, and an EU summit. The president will travel to multiple countries on his journey, including the UK, Belgium, and Switzerland.

With US-Russia tensions at a historic high, Biden’s meeting with Putin will in many ways be the most anticipated aspect of the trip. Washington and Moscow are at odds over a convoluted array of issues, ranging from Russia’s interference in US elections to the ongoing war involving Kremlin-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Biden has vowed to address these issues, among others, and work to find common ground during the meeting.

Though all eyes will be on Biden’s meeting with Putin, the president’s interactions with Erdogan will also be closely monitored given the tense dynamic between the US and Turkey.

Turkey is a NATO ally, but US-Turkey relations have rapidly deteriorated in recent years. Biden and Erdogan have a particularly tense relationship. The president has referred to his Turkish counterpart as an autocrat, prompting outcry in Ankara, and Erdogan blasted Biden’s recent move to formally recognize the Armenian genocide.

In short, this will be a challenging excursion for Biden. But foreign policy is an area where the president has a breadth of experience and often appears to be most comfortable. This will be the first time he represents the US outside of its borders as commander-in-chief, however, and he’ll be eager to make a good first impression.

Here’s a quick breakdown of Biden’s jam-packed schedule on his first trip abroad:

  • June 10: Meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the UK
  • June 11-13: G7 summit in Cornwall, including bilateral meetings with other G7 leaders
  • June 13: Meeting with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle
  • June 14: NATO summit in Brussels
  • June 14: Meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels
  • June 15: US-EU summit in Brussels
  • June 15: Meetings with King Philippe of Belgium and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in Brussels
  • June 16: Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva
  • June 16: Meeting with Swiss President Guy Parmelin and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis in Geneva
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‘Sea snot’ is clogging up Turkey’s coasts, suffocating marine life, and devastating fisheries

sea snot turkey coast dock harbor sea of marmara
A drone photo shows sea snot near the Maltepe, Kadikoy, and Adalar districts of Istanbul, Turkey on May 2, 2021.

  • A goopy substance called sea snot has been clogging Turkish coasts in the Sea of Marmara for months.
  • The mucus has been filling fishing nets, suffocating coral, and killing marine life.
  • Climate change and fertilizer runoff may be fueling the algae boom that’s behind the sea snot.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Blankets of a goopy, camel-colored substance have been accumulating in the water off Turkey’s coast for months.

The goop, called marine mucilage or “sea snot,” is covering so much of the coastline along the Sea of Marmara that people can no longer fish there. The sea snot formations can get up to 100 feet (30 meters) deep, according to the Turkish news site Cumhuriyet.

The sea snot fills fishing nets and weighs them down – one fisherman told Cumhuriyet that nets have been bursting from the weight of the mucus. A fishery co-op leader said people were barely pulling in a fifth of the fish they hauled at this time last year.

Marine mucilage is a goopy discharge of protein, carbohydrates, and fat from microscopic algae called phytoplankton. The substance was documented in the Sea of Marmara for the first time in 2007, as researchers at Istanbul University reported in 2008.

marine mucilage sea snot underwater ocean
Marine mucilage, or “sea snot,” near the Solomon Islands.

Normally, sea snot is not a problem, but when phytoplankton grow out of control, the goop can overpower marine ecosystems. This can wreak ecological havoc, since the substance can harbor bacteria like E Coli and ensnare or suffocate marine life. Eventually, the snot sinks to the sea floor, where it can blanket coral and suffocate them, too.

Since phytoplankton thrive in warm water, scientists suspect that climate change is fueling the new sea-snot crisis. Runoff from nitrogen- and phosphorous-rich fertilizer and sewage could also be causing an explosion in the phytoplankton population.

“We are experiencing the visible effects of climate change, and adaptation requires an overhaul of our habitual practices. We must initiate a full-scale effort to adapt,” Mustafa Sarı, dean of Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University’s maritime faculty, told The Guardian.

sea snot turkey coast harbor dock mucus marmara
A drone photo shows sea snot near Istanbul, Turkey on May 2, 2021.

This is the largest accumulation of sea snot yet, according to The Guardian. It began in deep waters during the winter then spread to the coastlines this year. Barış Özalp, a marine biologist at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, first noticed it in December but became alarmed once the snot carpets continued to grow through the spring.

“The gravity of the situation set in when I dived for measurements in March and discovered severe mortality in corals,” he told The Guardian.

Thousands of fish have been washing up dead in coastal towns as well, Sarı told The Guardian. The fish could be suffocating because sea snot clogs their gills, or because it depletes the water’s oxygen levels.

“Once the mucilage covers the coasts, it limits the interaction between water and the atmosphere,” Sarı said.

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Turkey’s cryptocurrency nightmare worsened after a second exchange collapsed – stoking fears about bitcoin’s risks

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Turkey’s government is planning to crack down on cryptocurrencies.

  • A second cryptocurrency exchange has collapsed in Turkey, adding to the country’s crypto woes.
  • Analysts said the abrupt closure of the exchanges highlighted the risks of cryptocurrencies.
  • Many have turned to bitcoin and other assets to try to hedge against the country’s high inflationn rate.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

The cryptocurrency market has been dealt a major blow in Turkey after a second exchange went down on Friday. The closures have left hundreds of thousands of people without access to bitcoin and other assets, which many had bought as a hedge against rampant inflation.

Analysts said the events were a reminder to cryptocurrency investors everywhere to be sure to do business with reputable companies.

Vebitcoin, a Turkish crypto exchange which had around $60 million in daily trading volumes, announced it had stopped all of its activities on Friday. It put a message up on its website blaming financial strains.

The Turkish financial crimes watchdog then blocked all the exchange’s bank accounts in the country later that day, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Vebitcoin’s announcement came days after rival Turkish crypto exchange Thodex stopped operations and its founder fled the country. The exchange had around 390,000 active users, according to reports.

The abrupt closure of the exchange was one catalyst for bitcoin’s dramatic fall below $50,000 from recent highs close to $65,000, analysts said.

“The collapse of two exchanges in Turkey sent a warning to many cryptocurrency traders who have gotten into crypto with unreputable companies,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, said.

Turkey’s cryptocurrency woes have been tied up with government efforts to crack down on the market.

Last week the country’s central bank backed a ban on crypto payments. It said using cryptocurrencies for payments could cause “non-recoverable losses” for the parties involved.

But many Turks have turned to cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation, which stood at 16.2% in March.

“People like the idea of cryptocurrencies because they’re unconstrained by the government,” Marshall Gittler, head of investment research at BDSwiss, said. “But that freedom comes with costs – it also means there’s no insurance and limited regulation.”

Philip Gradwell, chief economist at Chainalysis, said: “The troubles at Turkish exchanges illustrate the importance of clear and stable regulation for cryptocurrency.”

He added: “Investors in the USA and Europe are fortunate to have reputable cryptocurrency exchanges that operate within a strong regulatory framework, so the events in Turkey should not reduce their confidence.”

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Biden has formally recognized the Armenian genocide, becoming the first US president to do so

Biden
President Joe Biden

  • President Joe Biden on Saturday officially recognized the Armenian genocide.
  • In doing so, Biden becomes the first US president to acknowledge the atrocity as genocide.
  • The US had avoided declaring such for decades over fears of angering Turkey.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden on Saturday officially recognized the mass killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during the early 1900s by the Ottoman Empire as genocide, becoming the first US president to do so.

“Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Biden said in a statement published Saturday by The White House in recognition of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

“Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination,” he added.

As The Associated Press reported, previous US presidents had long avoided calling the atrocity a “genocide” to avoid angering Turkey. Biden last year, then a candidate for president, said he would recognize the genocide.

While other presidents had released statements recognizing the atrocity, none before Biden had called it “genocide” because of the US relationship with Turkey as part of NATO. Former President Donald Trump in 2019 blocked an attempt by Congress to formally recognize the genocide.

In an April 2019 statement, Trump referred to the genocide, which occurred between 1915 and 1923, as “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century” but stopped short of calling it genocide.

It’s estimated that 2 million Armenians were deported during the period, while 1.5 were killed, the AP reported. According to the report, Biden informed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his intent to issue the statement on Friday.

“We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past,” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, tweeted following Biden’s statement. “Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal to peace and justice. We entirely reject this statement based solely on populism.”

Domestically, Biden’s declaration received praise.

“I am glad to see President Biden responded to my request to take formal action to recognize the Armenian Genocide, a tragedy I have been determined to see acknowledged for years alongside so many others in Congress and the entire Armenian-American community,” said GOP Rep. David G. Valado of California in a statement.

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Biden is set to officially recognize the Armenian genocide, despite warnings from Turkey it could ‘worsen ties’ even more

Biden Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and then-Vice President Joe Biden attend a press conference after a meeting at the Beylerbeyi Palace on November 22, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey.

  • Biden is set to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide on Saturday, the NYT reported.
  • No US president has officially recognized the killing of 1.5 million Armenians during WWI as genocide.
  • Turkey has warned that such a move would harm relations at a time when they’re already strained.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden is poised to formally recognize the Armenian genocide on Saturday, The New York Times reported per officials familiar with deliberations on the matter, in a historic move that could further roil US-Turkey relations.

Biden would be the first sitting US president to officially recognize the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide. That said, former President Ronald Reagan made a reference to the “genocide of the Armenians” in a 1981 statement on the Holocaust. The step Biden is reportedly set to take would be more official and occur in concert with Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which happens every year on April 24.

Turkey has urged Biden against recognizing the World War I killings as genocide at a time when the dynamic between Washington and Ankara is already historically contentious. Speaking on the matter during an interview with the Turkish broadcaster Haberturk on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, “Statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties.”

“If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs,” Cavusoglu added.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

As a candidate, Biden promised to recognize the mass killings as genocide. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers led by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California sent the president a letter urging him to deliver on this pledge. When asked about the letter at Wednesday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president would have “more to say about Remembrance Day on Saturday.”

Every president since Jimmy Carter has made public statements memorializing the atrocities committed against the Armenians during the first world war but has stopped short of referring to the killings as genocide. In a statement on the annual remembrance day last year, for example, then-President Donald Trump characterized the killings as “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.”

Forty-nine US states and dozens of countries, including key US allies and fellow NATO members such as France, Germany, and Canada, have recognized the killings as genocide. In 2019, both the House and Senate passed resolutions designating the slaughter as genocide.

The mass slaughter, which began in April 1915, transpired as Turkey forced Armenians on a death march from the Eastern Anatolia Region to the Syrian Desert.

Turkey has dismissed any characterization of the massacre as “genocide,” even as scholars and historians widely regard it as an indisputable fact. There are eyewitness accounts from survivors and reports of mass graves from diplomats who saw and documented the killings firsthand.

Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish origin who lost much of his family during the Holocaust and coined the term “genocide,” studied the atrocities against the Armenians closely. In other words, the word “genocide” is fundamentally linked to what happened to the Armenians during World War I.

Despite the evidence and agreement among scholars, US presidents have consistently avoided calling the killings genocide over fear of angering Turkey – a country long regarded in Washington as a vital NATO ally (the US also has nuclear weapons stored in Turkey).

Not long after his inauguration, Biden pledged that his foreign policy would be centered on human rights. Critics have said Biden is falling short on this promise on an array of issues, ranging from refugees to relations with Gulf states. But recognizing the Armenian genocide would signify that when it comes to US-Turkey relations, Biden is prioritizing human rights over keeping Ankara happy.

Tensions between the US and Turkey were already rising before Biden entered the White House, and this trend was expected to accelerate upon his arrival.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian approach to leadership, on top of moves such as targeting the US-backed Kurds in Syria and purchasing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, has strained ties between the two countries. Though Trump referred to Erdogan as a “friend,” his administration in December hit Turkey with sanctions over the S-400 deal.

Along the campaign trail, Biden referred to Erdogan as an “autocrat,” prompting condemnation from the Turkish government. More recently, Erdogan in March lashed out at Biden for referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer,” stating it was “truly unacceptable” and “not something that can be stomached.”

Nearly 100 days into his presidency, Biden has still not spoken to Erdogan.

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