By Hrair Tamrazian in Prague
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-A) sounded upbeat about the chances of a bill on the Armenian genocide reaching the House floor.
Earlier, on 8 June, Schiff announced that the House International Relations Committee has agreed to take up the contentious debate over whether Congress should officially call the massacre of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey during World War I "a genocide".
According to Mr. Schiff, the first votes will take place in the
Subcommittee and if the bill passes this stage, it will be reviewed in the full committee and then will go to the House where, as he put it, "we will have another fight with the speaker's office to get the bill taken up on the floor."
But Mr. Schiff said he did not underestimate the power of the Turkish lobby.
"They have one of the most senior former members of the Congress who were actively opposing my work in committee. But they will be continuing to work on it. I don't underestimate their tenacity or the resources behind them. So this will be a tough challenge," he said.
Mr. Schiff said he has reached an agreement with Chairman Henry Hyde to hear and mark up a dedicated Armenian Genocide resolution.
"The last time that happened was over five years ago and those of us that have been working for recognition of the Armenian Genocide have been struggling to get the responsible committees to hold hearings on the issue," he told RFE/RL.
"We still have to make sure that the votes are there, but the obstacle over the last half decade has been really getting a hearing, getting an upper down vote and we are now guaranteed by the Chairman to have our opportunity to get a vote."
Mr. Schiff said he will introduce the resolution within the next couple of weeks.
According to him, it will be a resolution outlining the history of the Armenian genocide, the murder of some 1.5 million Armenians that was the first genocide of the 20th century.
"That is something that's long overdue, something that the U.S. Congress has done in the past, but it's been a great, great many years since."
As for the future fate of the resolution, Mr. Schiff said they were taking "one step at a time". "We need first to get it past the House and that will be a considerable hurdle."
Speaking about the ongoing visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the United States, Mr. Schiff said he does not know whether there will be any official discussion of lifting the Turkish blockade of Armenia. But the congressman added: "I intend to continue to address these issues as this blockade does enormous economic injury to the entire region and has to be stopped."
Mr. Schiff acknowledges that Turkey is an important ally of the U.S., but he also says that the two countries have disagreements as well, in particular over Turkey's stance during the Iraq war.
But he added: "Our relationship has withstood these differences and it will withstand recognition of the Armenian Genocide as well."