The resolution passed by the United States House of Representatives to recognize World War I-era killings of Armenians as genocide was a shameful step, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said while visiting Washington on November 13.
The Turkish leader, who met with U.S. President Donald Trump, also expressed hope that the U.S. Senate “will not repeat that mistake.”
The resolution overwhelmingly adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives on October 29 calls on the U.S. government to “commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance” and to “reject” Turkish efforts to deny it. It says the government should also “encourage education and public understanding of the facts of the Armenian Genocide” and their “relevance to modern-day crimes against humanity.”
Armenia hailed the House’s decision to characterize the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian called it a “bold step towards serving truth and historical justice.”
Erdogan, who had strongly condemned the resolution, said during a White House briefing yesterday that Ankara “will not get involved in a game whose authors want to undermine U.S.-Turkish ties.” The Turkish leader claimed that “some historical events and allegations are being used to break down Turkish-American relations.”
“The documents adopted at the House of Representatives have served this very purpose and have deeply offended the Turkish people. It is not politicians but historians who are to decide what happened a hundred years ago… I hope the Senate will get America off this wrong path,” Erdogan declared.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who had met with Erdogan to discuss U.S.-Turkish ties and the situation in Syria, in particular, did not address the House resolution on the Armenian Genocide during the press conference. Hours later, however, it became clear that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had blocked the passage of a similar document in the Senate.
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took to the Senate floor to call for an immediate consideration by the Senate of the pending Armenian Genocide resolution. “I ask unanimous consent that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee be discharged from further consideration of S. RES. 150 and the Senate proceed to its immediate consideration. I further ask that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motions to reconsider be considered upon — considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate,” the pro-Armenian senator said.
Opposing the measure was South Carolina Senator Graham, who, in his remarks, cited his recent meeting with Erdogan as the reason to not pass the Senate resolution saying that in view of the current crisis in Syria, as well as discussions with Turkey on its purchase of Russian weapons, the Senate should not move forward with the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
“My objection would not be to sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it. I just met with President Erdogan and President Trump about the problems we face in Syria by the military incursion by Turkey,” said Graham.
“I do hope that Turkey and Armenia can come together and deal with this problem. Given where we’re at in Syria and some hope that maybe we can resolve things, I object not because of the past, but because of the future,” added Graham.
Armenian organizations in the United States, however, took issue with the Republican senator over this argument.
“It’s clear – in the wake of near-unanimous, bipartisan U.S. House passage H.Res.296 – that the Senate would also pass this resolution overwhelmingly. Senator Graham knows this and – understanding that this would further isolate the Trump Administration – is blocking his colleagues from an up-or-down vote on this measure,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
“If Senator Graham has a problem with S.Res.150 he should vote against it, not prevent his Senate colleagues from voting their conscience on this human rights measure,” Hamparian added.