The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the non-binding measures by 23 votes to 22. The outcome of the vote, which lasted for over 90 minutes, hang in the balance until the last minute. The panel passed similar resolutions, most recently in 2007, by much wider margins in the past.
Committee members opposed to the resolution argued, among other things, that the fence-mending Turkish-Armenian protocols call for the formation of a joint “subcommission” that would study the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. They also said calling the massacres a genocide could scuttle Turkish parliamentary ratification of the protocols.
Armen Rustamian, the de facto head of Dashnaktsutyun’s organization in Armenia, claimed this is the reason why several U.S. congressmen declined to vote for the genocide bill this time around.
“I think all those who followed the committee debate understood and saw very well just how these protocols can put the brakes on the process of international recognition of the Armenian genocide,” Rustamian told a news conference. “When we had been saying that for months, many thought that this is just a partisan view.”
Giro Manoyan, the nationalist party’s foreign policy spokesman, agreed, saying that the protocols have given opponents of U.S. recognition of the genocide a new argument.
The Dashnaktsutyun structures in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora have been highly critical of President Serzh Sarkisian’s policy of rapprochement with Turkey that culminated in the signing of the protocols last October. Their leaders have repeatedly said that Ankara will exploit the would-be historical “subcommission” to deter the United States and other nations from recognizing the genocide.
Sarkisian and his political allies insist, however that the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement will not slow the recognition process. The Armenian Assembly of America, one of the two main Armenian lobby organizations in Washington, has subscribed to that view.
“If there were any doubts before, this establishes that there is not and cannot be any linkage with the Protocols,” one of the Assembly leaders told RFE/RL after the House committee vote.
Both the Assembly and the Dashnaktsutyun-controlled Armenia National Committee of America have lobbied hard for the passage of the resolution.