(AFP, RFE/RL) - Turkey urged U.S. lawmakers on Friday to drop consideration of a draft resolution describing as genocide the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
"We keep our expectation that this draft will not be taken onto the agenda of the House of Representatives or if it is, that it will not be approved," foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz told a press conference in Ankara. "We expect the U.S. Congress and the US administration to make the necessary efforts so that this draft is not adopted."
The judiciary committee of the lower house of the U.S. Congress on Thursday passed a draft resolution reaffirming its support to a 1948 international convention on the prevention of genocide, in which the mass killings of Armenians were referred to as "genocide", along with the Holocaust and the massacres in Rwanda and Cambodia.
In October 2000 a draft congressional resolution acknowledging the massacres as genocide was pulled from the House floor following an intervention by President Bill Clinton who argued that the United States should not damage its ties with Turkey, a key Muslim ally. There are fears in Ankara that this time the Bush administration may not intervene to have the resolution quashed because of Turkey's failure to back the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
The influential Armenian-Armenian lobbying groups are bound to resist any White House attempts to kill the bill or have the House remove any reference to the Armenian genocide. According to Ross Vartian, the executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, the main question is how far the Bush administration is prepared to go in addressing Turkey’s concerns.
“It’s obvious that generally they are opposed to it,” Vartian told RFE/RL. “They have passed that message to the House Judiciary Committee. But just a statement of opposition will not be enough to stop this bill. They are going to have to take strong action as President Clinton did in 2000, and I don’t know if they are willing to do that.”
“But in any case, it’s going to be more difficult for the administration to oppose this particular bill than previous versions,” Vartian added.