US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that the United States should not be involved in a dispute between Turkey and Armenia over whether the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians almost a century ago constituted genocide.
Under intense questioning from Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, sponsor of a resolution that would declare that Turkey's Ottoman predecessor state committed genocide, Rice repeatedly avoided answering whether she believed there was any basis for historical debate on the matter.
"What we've encouraged the Turks and the Armenians to do is to have joint historical commissions that can look at this, to have efforts to examine their past, and in examining their past to get over it," she said in a congressional hearing. "I don't think it helps that process of reconciliation for the United States to enter this debate at that level."
The dispute involves the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. Armenian advocates, backed by many historians, contend they died in an organized genocide; the Turks say they were victims of widespread chaos and governmental breakdown as the 600-year-old empire collapsed in the years before Turkey was born in 1923.