Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the US ambassador to Ankara, in protest at the US Congress’ passing of a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide. The ministry accused American lawmakers of politicizing history.
The Senate resolution was passed unanimously on Thursday. It formally acknowledges the mass murder of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1922 as an act of genocide.
It is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.
A similar resolution passed the House in October.
Turkey denies that the murders amounted to genocide, and disputes the figures. Reacting on Twitter, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the vote a “political show,” that “has no validity whatsoever.”
US President Donald Trump had opposed the resolution, on account of the already tense relations between Washington and Ankara. As Trump met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in November, Republican Senators were busy blocking the same resolution from passing the upper house, for fear of upsetting the Turks.
Trump and Erdogan had much to discuss. Turkey’s insistence on purchasing the Russian-made S-400 air defense system has already set it against its NATO allies, and seen the country booted out of the F-35 jet fighter program. US lawmakers also met with Erdogan to chastise the Turkish leader for his military offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, launched in October.
While the White House likely fears the genocide resolution will make it impossible to negotiate a resolution to the S-400/F-35 impasse, the Senate has taken a much harder approach. One day before passing the genocide resolution, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to advance a sanctions bill against Ankara, with ranking member Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) describing Turkey’s actions as “beyond the pale.”
Activists and campaigners have been lobbying the US government to recognize the Armenian gencide since the 1960s. However, Turkey has always insisted that doing so would harm relations between the two NATO allies. Former President Barack Obama promised in 2008 to acknowledge the genocide, but abandoned this pledge once taking office.
The Senate vote brings to 32 the number of countries who recognize the killings – which took place under the rule of the Ottoman empire – as a genocide. These include France, Italy, Canada, and Russia.
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