Two pro-Armenian members of the U.S. Senate formally introduced on Tuesday a new draft resolution that refers to the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey as genocide and urges President Barack Obama to act accordingly.
The resolution is virtually identical with a bill that was approved by a key committee of the U.S. House of Representatives two years. Nancy Pelosi, the then House speaker who has long stood for Armenian genocide recognition, refrained from putting it to a full House vote in disputed circumstances later in 2010.
The latest bill submitted by Senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk calls on Obama to “accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide” in his annual statements on the issue.
Obama has refused to do that so far despite campaign promises that he gave to the Armenian-American community when running for president in 2008. The Turkish government, which vehemently denies that the mass killings constituted genocide, has repeatedly warned him of severe damage to U.S.-Turkish relations.
“It is time for the United States to join the nineteen nations including Belgium, Canada, France, Italy and the European Union that have formally recognized the actions carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 as genocide,” Menendez said in a statement. “The Armenian Genocide is a historical fact and was one of the incidents upon which the Genocide Convention was predicated.”
“The Armenian Genocide is well-documented and formally recognized by 11 NATO allies and the European Union,” Kirk said for his part.
The two main Armenian-American lobbying groups promptly welcomed the resolution which is also co-sponsored by several other, mostly Democratic senators.
“We will continue our advocacy efforts to ensure additional cosponsors, and urge its timely adoption,” Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Turkey has no right to hold America hostage to its willful refusal as a state to accept a truthful, just, and comprehensive resolution of this crime against all humanity,” Aram Hamparian of the Armenian National Committee of America said in a statement cited by the Boston-based newspaper “The Armenian Weekly.”
There was no immediate reaction to the draft resolution from official Ankara.
The proposed legislation is due to be first discussed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee headed by John Kerry, a former Democratic presidential candidate and longtime backer of such bills. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has also supported the Armenian-American community on the issue.
Still, observers believe that securing Senate approval for the resolution could prove even harder than pushing it through the House. Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated the Obama administration’s opposition to such measures.