The Bush administration will attempt to calm Turkey down after a congressional panel’s approval of a measure describing as genocide the extermination of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the beginning of the 20th century. The genocide of Armenians from 1915 to 1917 became the first genocide of human beings in the 20th century.
After the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives defied warnings by President George W. Bush with 27-21 approval Wednesday to send the measure to the full House for a vote, the administration will now try to pressure Democratic leaders not to schedule a vote. If the measure is brought to the floor for a vote, it is expected to pass.
Hours before the vote, Bush and his top two Cabinet members other senior officials made last-minute appeals to lawmakers to reject the measure.
“Its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror,” Bush said a few hours before.
Afterward, it fell to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack to enunciate the government’s dismay at the event.
He expressed continued strong opposition and said passage of the resolution would gravely harm U.S.-Turkish relations and U.S. interests in Europe and the Middle East.
“The United States recognizes the immense suffering of the Armenian people due to mass killings and forced deportations at the end of the Ottoman Empire,” McCormack said in a statement. “We support a full and fair accounting of the atrocities that befell as many as 1.5 million Armenians during World War I, which H.Res. 106 does not do.”
Following Wednesday’s vote, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said he would call the Turkish ambassador to Washington, and that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would talk to Turkish leaders Thursday.
In a statement, the Turkish government said it “resents and condemns” the House vote.
“It is not possible to accept such an accusation of a crime which was never committed by the Turkish nation,” the statement said.
“It is blatantly obvious that the House Committee on Foreign Affairs does not have a task or function to re-write history by distorting a matter which specifically concerns the common history of Turks and Armenians.”