WASHINGTON – The State Department said Tuesday that recent congressional action to recognize the Armenian genocide does not reflect Trump administration policy.
In a short statement likely to please Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the department said the administration’s position on the matter is unchanged.
The Senate voted unanimously last week to recognize the mass killings of more than a million Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as a genocide. The House had previously adopted a similar bill over major protests from NATO ally Turkey.
“The position of the Administration has not changed,” department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a terse two-sentence statement. “Our views are reflected in the president’s definitive statement on this issue from last April.”
On April 24, President Donald Trump commemorated Armenian Remembrance Day in a statement that honored “the memory of those who suffered in one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.” It did not, however, use the term “genocide” in keeping with longstanding U.S. policy.
The Senate action follows a vote by a Senate committee to impose sanctions on Turkey after its offensive in Syria and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system.
The actions were the latest by Congress to push Trump to take a harder line against Erdogan. Trump said last month that Erdogan was “doing a fantastic job for the people of Turkey.”
The Armenian resolution and the sanction bill passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “endanger the future of our bilateral relations,” Erdogan spokesman Fahrettin Altun said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Senate vote “is a shameful example of the politicization of history. However, those who use history for political purposes will never achieve their goals.”
The bills sponsors, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., had tried three times to bring up the resolution using a procedural maneuver that would allow approval on a voice vote, a way to avoid lengthy floor debate. Each time, a Republican senator objected, citing White House disapproval.
The House had passed an identical resolution overwhelmingly in October in what was widely seen as a rebuke to Turkey after its invasion of northern Syria. Turkey has lobbied for years against U.S. recognition of the killings of Ottoman Armenians as genocide.
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed around World War I, and many scholars see it as the 20th century’s first genocide. Turkey disputes the description, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of a civil war.
Instead of a resolution affirming the genocide, Turkey has called for a joint committee of historians to investigate the slayings. ___