Published: Fri, December 13, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Senate backs measure affirming century-old Armenian genocide

Senate backs measure affirming century-old Armenian genocide

The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution that recognizes as a genocide the mass killings of Armenians a century ago, a historic move that infuriated Turkey and dealt a blow to the already problematic ties between Ankara and Washington.

In October, the Democratic-led House of Representatives had passed the resolution by an overwhelming majority.

Critics, including prominent Republican senators, blasted Trump as giving a green light to Erdoğan for the assault, and after the USA and Turkey reached an agreement to halt it, Trump embraced the Turkish leader at the White House and removed any sanctions on senior Turkish officials.

The resolution, for which the Armenian government and diaspora have long asked, officially recognizes the mass violence against and forced displacement of Armenian Christians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. As many as 1.5 million Armenians died.

Turkey condemned the measure, saying it will not help improve relations with the United States. The White House has said the timing of the resolution is inappropriate, just weeks after Erdoğan visited Washington, as he and Trump try to patch things up. But Republican senators had blocked a vote in the Senate since the Erdogan meeting. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Sen.

"I am thankful that this resolution has passed at a time in which there are still survivors of the genocide [who] will be able to see that the Senate acknowledges what they went through", Menendez said. On Thursday, however, there were no objections, clearing that way for the resolution's approval. "It's time for the president to join us", said Adam Schiff, the Democrat who sponsored the measure in the lower house.

The actions were the latest by Congress to push President Donald Trump to take a harder line against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who Trump said last month was "doing a fantastic job for the people of Turkey". The Ottomon Empire was centered in present-day Turkey.

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Turkey has long-disputed the term "genocide", calling the death toll inflated and considering those killed to be victims of war.

"History will note these resolutions as irresponsible and irrational actions by some members of the US Congress against Turkey", Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's communications director, said on Twitter in response.

Trump has praised Erdoğan and pushed for closer ties with Turkey, but lawmakers of both parties have sought to penalize its government for behavior they've said damages USA interests.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the vote a "political show" on social media, adding that "it is not legally binding and it has no validity whatsoever".

The White House reportedly did not want the legislation to move ahead as it negotiated with Ankara on sensitive issues, and following a meeting at the White House between Erdogan and Trump in November.

The administration has also so far refused to sanction Turkey for its purchase of the Russian S400 missile defense system despite a 2017 law Trump signed requiring sanctions for any significant Russian defense purchases.

The Senate vote follows a vote by a Senate committee to impose sanctions on Turkey after its offensive in Syria and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system. Republican senators have been incensed with Turkey's purchase of the S-400, which the United States says poses a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and can not be integrated into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defenses.

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