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House committee adopts Armenian genocide resolution
House committee adopts Armenian genocide resolution

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs [official website] voted 23-22 Tuesday to adopt a resolution [H Res 252 text] that recognizes the Ottoman Empire's treatment of Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as genocide [JURIST news archive]. In his opening remarks [text], committee chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) [official website], noted that every country must face uncomfortable issues its past, and continued, "[i]t is now time for Turkey to accept the reality of the Armenian Genocide." The non-binding resolution:

calls upon the President in the President's annual message commemorating the Armenian Genocide issued on or about April 24, to accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide and to recall the proud history of United States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.

Obama administration officials had urged the committee not to hold the vote [NYT report], fearing that such a resolution could damage relations with Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan [official website, in Turkish] condemned the resolution [press release, in Turkish], denying the charges and warning the resolution could harm Turkey's relationship with the US and Armenia. Turkey also recalled its ambassador to the US Thursday. It is not known whether the full House of Representatives will vote on the resolution. A similar resolution was passed by the committee in 2007, but it never reached the House floor [JURIST reports].

In October, Armenia and Turkey signed an accord [JURIST report] normalizing relations and opening the border between the two countries. Despite the apparent appeal of the agreement, there is opposition by factions in both countries. Many Armenian nationalists want Turkey to acknowledge the killings of 1.5 million Armenian citizens during World War I, which many refer to as the "Armenian Genocide" [BBC backgrounder]. Turkey has long disputed [Al Jazeera report] the numbers, and has said the killings were a result of a civil war that took place after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. Turkey has expressed concern over its ally Azerbaijan, which has been fighting [DW report] with Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Turkey closed its border to Armenia in 1993 after Armenian separatists began fighting with Azerbaijani military to show its support for the preservation of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.