US LAWMAKERS BACK ARMENIAN ‘GENOCIDE’ BILL
Agence France Presse
Oct 11 2007
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US lawmakers defied strident warnings by President
George W. Bush and Turkey by voting Wednesday to label the Ottoman
Empire’s World War I massacre of Armenians as "genocide."
To cheers and applause from emotional Armenians, including elderly
wheelchair-bound survivors, the House of Representatives Foreign
Affairs Committee voted for the resolution by 27 votes to 21.
Bush and top lieutenants earlier were unusually blunt in attacking the
non-binding resolution, warning that it would trigger Turkish reprisals
and undermine US efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
The vote "may do grave harm to US-Turkish relations and to US
interests in Europe and the Middle East," State Department spokesman
Sean McCormack said.
"Nor will it improve Turkish-Armenian relations or advance
reconciliation among Turks and Armenians over the terrible events of
1915," he said.
The measure is likely to be sent on to a vote in the full
Democratic-led House, where a majority has already signed on to the
resolution. A parallel measure is in the Senate pipeline.
Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America,
lauded "a historic day" after the committee’s vote.
"It is long past time for the US government to acknowledge and affirm
this horrible chapter of history — the first genocide of the 20th
century and a part of history that we must never forget," he said.
The text says the killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians was a
"genocide" that should be acknowledged fully in US foreign policy
towards Turkey, along with "the consequences of the failure to realize
a just resolution."
While the American-Armenian community celebrated, Turkish President
Abdullah Gul denounced the vote as "unacceptable" and accused the
House members of sacrificing US interests to "petty games of domestic
Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, Nabi Sensoy, told AFP the vote
was "very disappointing" and called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to
refrain from bringing it to a full vote.
Sensoy, who has personally lobbied more than 100 House members against
the resolution, added that "those who said it won’t do any harm,
we will have to wait and see."
Bush said the resolution would do "great harm" to ties with Turkey,
a Muslim-majority member of NATO whose territory is a crucial transit
point for US supplies bound for Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to the Armenians, 1.5 million of their kinsmen were killed
from 1915 to 1923 under an Ottoman Empire campaign of deportation
and murder that later encouraged Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust
against the Jews.
Rejecting the genocide label, Turkey argues that 250,000 to 500,000
Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when
Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia during
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates
also denounced the measure before the hearing, after veiled threats
from Ankara that US access to a sprawling air base in southern Turkey
could be denied.
But despite the warnings, the resolution’s backers warned the issue
could not be ignored as they drew parallels to the Holocaust and the
present-day bloodshed in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
"We’ve been told the timing is bad," Democratic House member Gary
Ackerman said in an emotional hearing that lasted nearly four hours.
"But the timing was bad for the Armenian people in 1915."
Republican Representative Christopher Smith said the resolution was
not a slight on modern Turkey, adding: "Friends don’t let friends
commit crimes against humanity."
Republican lawmaker Dan Burton, however, said passage of the genocide
resolution could endanger US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We’re in the middle of two wars. We have troops out there who are
at risk. And we’re talking about kicking an ally in the teeth. It
Gates said that about 70 percent of all Iraq-bound US air cargo,
95 percent of tough new mine-resistant vehicles and one-third of the
military’s fuel transit through Turkey.
US commanders "believe, clearly, that access to airfields and to
the roads and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk if this
resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they
will," he said.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress