The U.S. Senate joined the House of Representative on Thursday in recognizing the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
In a bipartisan resolution adopted by unanimous consent, the Senate said “it is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.” It also rejected attempts to "enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide."
The resolution was introduced in April by Democratic Senator Robert Menendez and his Republican colleague Ted Cruz and co-sponsored by 26 other senators. Menendez and Cruz stepped up their push for its passage after the House adopted in late October a similar resolution that was for decades championed by the Armenian community in the U.S.
For three consecutive weeks the Senate bill was blocked by other Republican senators, reportedly at the request of the White House concerned about its impact on U.S.-Turkish relations. Menendez’s and Cruz’s fourth attempt to get it passed proved successful, with no senators voicing objections this time around.
“It is fitting and appropriate that the Senate stands on the right side of history,” Menendez declared on the Senate floor.
“I am thankful that this resolution has passed at a time in which there are still survivors of the genocide,” he added with tears in his eyes.
“It was an atrocious genocide,” Cruz said for his part. “That it happened is a fact and an undeniable reality,”
“We have a moral duty to acknowledge what happened to 1.5 million innocent souls. It’s the rigt thing to do,” said the former Republican presidential candidate.
Adam Schiff, the main author of the House resolution on the Armenian genocide, was quick to welcome the Senate move. “The Congress is now united in speaking the truth about the genocide,” tweeted Schiff. “It’s now time for the President [Donald Trump] to join us.”
The two leading Armenian-American lobby groups also hailed the passage of the resolution.
“Today’s Senate action unequivocally gives meaning to U.S. affirmation of the Armenian genocide and sends a strong message to the world that the U.S. stands on the side of human rights,” said Bryan Ardouny, the executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America.
Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, called the resolution “truly historic.”
The Assembly and the ANCA have spent decades campaigning for such a measure. Genocide resolutions drafted by pro-Armenian lawmakers have been repeatedly approved by U.S. congressional committees in the past. But they did not reach the House or Senate floor because of opposition from former U.S. administrations.
Armenia also swiftly reacted to what Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian described as a “historic event.”
“We are overwhelmed with appreciation,” tweeted Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian. “A tribute to the victims and their dignity.”
“U.S. Senate Resolution is nothing more than a political show. It is not legally binding and it has no validity whatsoever,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter.
Ankara also strongly condemned the House resolution. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that condemnation when he visited Washington and met Trump last month.
Successive Turkish governments have vehemently denied a deliberate Ottoman government effort to exterminate the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population. Ankara’s continuing denials are dismissed by most scholars outside Turkey.
“The historical record on the Armenian Genocide is unambiguous and documented by overwhelming evidence,” the International Association of Genocide Scholars said in 2007.
The Armenian genocide has also been recognized by about three dozen states, including Canada, France, Germany, Russia and the Vatican.