Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged U.S. lawmakers Wednesday to drop an Armenian genocide resolution, warning of the strategic fallout on sensitive ties with Turkey.
"This is a very delicate time with Turkey," she told the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, which voted two weeks ago to label the Ottoman Empire's World War I massacre of Armenians as genocide.
"We have extremely important strategic interests with the Turks," Rice said, appealing to the House as a whole not to vote on the controversial resolution.
"This was something that was a horrible event in the mass killings that took place, but at the time of the Ottoman Empire. These are not the Ottomans," she said of the modern-day Turkish state.
Rice on Tuesday held talks with Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, and she told the House panel that she had urged both the Armenians and Turks to work together on bridging their historical differences. "But I continue to believe that the passage of the... Armenian genocide resolution would severely harm our relationships with Turkey," the secretary of state said.
President George W. Bush has also urged Congress to drop the resolution. "Congress has more important work to do than antagonizing a democratic ally in the Muslim world, especially one that's providing vital support for our military every day," in places like Iraq, he said last week.
Some of the House members told Rice that the resolution was never intended to be a slight on Turkey itself. But in any case, support for the genocide tag appears to be waning in the full House following Turkey's threat to cut off its logistical support for U.S.-led war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.