Turkey on Friday condemned the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee for approving a resolution that acknowledges the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire and said it could harm Turkish-American relations.
Armenia, by contrast, swiftly welcomed the resolution with a statement issued by Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
“On the eve of the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide the adoption by the Senate Committee of Resolution 410 is an important step on the way to restoration of historical truth and prevention of crimes against humanity,” said Nalbandian. He praised Robert Menendez, the pro-Armenian chairman of the Senate committee, and 11 other senators who backed the measure for their “principled stance.”
“We reject this attempt at a political exploitation that distorts history and law, and we condemn those who led this prejudiced initiative, which is devoid of any legal ground,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said for its part.
A ministry statement warned that “instead of damaging Turkish-American bilateral ties” the U.S. Congress should ensure that “this draft resolution and similar ones are not moved any further in the legislative agenda.”
The U.S. administration did not openly object to the proposed legislation, which also urges President Barack Obama to characterize the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks as genocide. Commenting on the genocide bill shortly before the Senate committee vote on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “We clearly acknowledge as historical fact and mourn the loss of 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.”
“These horrific events resulted in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, and the United States recognizes that they remain a great source of pain for the people of Armenia and of Armenian descent, as they do for all of us who share basic universal values,” she added at a daily news briefing in Washington.
Psaki would not say, however, whether the Obama administration is ready to officially recognize the genocide. Obama promised to do that when he ran for president in 2008. He has so far failed to honor that pledge, mindful of negative Turkish reaction to such a move.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry statement spoke of ongoing efforts to have Armenians and Turks “reach a just memory of the tragic events of 1915.” “In this context, our proposal to establish a Joint Historical Commission, also reflected in the  Turkish-Armenian protocols, remains on the agenda,” it said.
Ankara has repeatedly stated that it will not implement those protocols before a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed this stance during a visit to Baku last week.
Psaki reiterated Washington’s strong support for the protocols calling for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. “While the protocols may not be moving forward at this time, we note that both sides remain committed to the process of normalizing relations and neither side has withdrawn,” she said.
“Our greatest interest on this issue is to see Armenia and Turkey heal the wounds of the past and move forward together in a shared future of security and prosperity in the region,” added the State Department official.