“1915 Armenian genocide” resolution approved after all
Considering the killings of nearly 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed legislation declaring the murders to be cases of genocide. The 27 to 21 vote came after a heated debate that voiced concerns over possible damage to U.S.-Turkey relations. Turkey is seen as a vital partner in the war on terror.
“Members of this committee have a sobering choice to make. We have to weigh the desire to express our solidarity with the Armenian people and to condemn this historic nightmare through the use of the word genocide against the risk that it could cause our men and women in the uniforms of the United States armed services to pay an even heavier price than they are currently paying,” stated Tom Lantos, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Armenian genocide of 1915 is already recognized by 22 countries, including Russia and the European Union. Turkey has repeatedly warned U.S. lawmakers against the passing of such a measure and denies that the killings were genocide. A number of U.S. congressmen also sided with Turkey, a key NATO ally.
“This resolution will not settle the issue anymore that it settled the issue with all the other nations that passed a similar resolution because the argument continues to go on,” Congressman Ted Poe stated.
Just hours before the vote, President Bush called upon Congress to reject the Armenian genocide bill arguing it would harm U.S.-Turkey relations.
“This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and a vote in favour would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror,” President Bush stressed.
Emphasizing the Bush administration's concerns, Secretary of Defense Gates and Secretary of State Rice argued against the approval of the resolution. Turkey is a key NATO ally of the U.S. and it has warned that if the measure is now passed in Congress, it may ban the U.S. from having a strategic military base which serves as a centre for operations in the region.
Armenian and Turkish reaction
The Armenian President, Robert Kocharian, has welcomed the decision and says he hopes relations with Ankara can been restored.
Meanwhile Turkey has recalled its ambassador to the United States.