armenian genocide 311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
WASHINGTON — A US congressional resolution that would recognize Ottoman era killings of Armenians as genocide could go forward despite opposition from the Obama administration.
US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon told reporters that there is no deal with Democratic congressional leaders to block the resolution. That contradicts earlier claims by the State Department.
"Congress is an independent body and they are going to do what they decide to do," Gordon said ahead of speech at the Brookings Institution.
Turkey strongly opposes the resolution. It withdrew its ambassador to Washington this month after a congressional committee approved the measure. The Obama administration has urged lawmakers not to allow it to proceed to a vote by the whole House of Representatives.
It is not clear that proponents of the resolution have sufficient support to pass it or that the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, is prepared to bring it to the floor for a vote.
"I recognize that we have a tough job ahead of us to garner the necessary support," said the resolution's chief sponsor, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.
Gordon said that the resolution had created an obstacle for reconciliation talks between Turkey and Armenia. The two countries reached a deal last year to normalize relations and open their border, but it has not yet been ratified by their governments.
Gordon denied that the process has stalled.
"I really think that those two countries' leaderships are committed to doing this," he told reporters.
He said that the Obama administration thinks that the historical issues are best addressed by the two countries as part of the reconciliation talks.
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by
Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by
genocide scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey
however denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll
has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and
Gordon acknowledged that the congressional committee's vote had set
back US-Turkish relations at a time that the United States is seeking
help from Ankara on reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions. He said that
the United States has not seen a deterioration of cooperation with
Turkey on a wide range of foreign policy.
A speech that was mostly positive on US-Turkish relations, Gordon urged
Turkey to step up pressure on Iran, a neighbor and important trading
partner. He criticized Ankara for abstaining on a resolution at the
International Atomic Energy Agency demanding that Iran suspend
construction of a once secret nuclear facility near the city of Qom.
"With respect to Iran, while the international community has sought to
present a single, coordinated message to Iran's government, Turkey has
at times sounded a different note," Gordon said, according to prepared
text of the speech.