By Aram Vanetsian in Los Angeles
Buoyed by the Democratic takeover of the U.S. Congress, pro-Armenian members of the House of Representatives will re-introduce this month a draft resolution recognizing the World War I-era killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.
Their Armenian-American backers are confident that the new House leadership will not seek to block the bill which is certain to anger Turkey and prompt strong objections from the administration of President George W. Bush.
Its language is expected to be virtually identical with that of two resolutions that were overwhelmingly approved by the House International Relations Committee in September 2005. Their passage by the full House was subsequently thwarted by the White House and leaders of the then Republican majority in Congress. One of those resolutions was co-sponsored by 140 lawmakers and called on Bush to “accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide.”
The new House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is a longtime advocate of Armenian issues who has supported such resolutions in the past.
“Prospects for [the passage of a genocide resolution] this year are certainly better than they have been in recent years,” said Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, a Washington-based lobbying group.
Ardouny told RFE/RL that the draft resolution will be introduced later this month by the two co-chairmen of the congressional Armenian Caucus and two other congressmen known for their close ties with the Armenian community in the United States. He said that unlike its previous analogues, the new legislative measure is a mere “House resolution” that does not have to be endorsed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by Bush.
Ardouny insisted that its passage by the lower chamber of Congress would still amount to official U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide. “I would certainly consider congressional recognition of the genocide to be official recognition,” he said.
The Armenian Assembly and other Armenian-American advocacy groups have for decades been campaigning for such recognition. They nearly succeeded in that endeavor in October 2000 when a last-minute intervention by then President Bill Clinton scuttled the almost certain adoption of a relevant congressional bill.
"I think we have the best chance probably in a decade to get an Armenian genocide resolution passed," Congressman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying late last month.