Turkey rages after US bill recognises Armenian genocide

Turkey rages after US bill recognises Armenian genocide

Turkey has summoned the US ambassador after Congress voted to recognise the First World War mass killings of Armenians as genocide and called for sanctions against Turkey over its Syrian incursion. 

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed from when the First World War was ongoing until 1923, calling it the 20th century’s first genocide. Turkey disputes the numbers killed and says many Armenians were victims of a civil war.

The US House of Representatives approved a resolution last week recognising the genocide, which Turkey vehemently denies, and passed a bill aiming to impose fresh sanctions over Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish militias in Syria. 

Turkey summoned the US ambassador, David Satterfield, the state-run Anadolu agency reported.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the US genocide recognition was “meaningless” and “devoid of any historical or legal basis”, adding that it was an attempt to take revenge for its incursion into Syria.

“Undoubtedly, this resolution will negatively affect the image of the US before the public opinion of Turkey as it also brings the dignity of the US House of Representatives into disrepute,” the ministry statement said.

The Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turks after 1915 has caused controversy in Turkey for a century. 

Turkey accepts that many Armenians in the Ottoman Empire died during the First World War but denies systematic killing and the term “genocide”. 

Many European countries recognise the killings as genocide and the US resolution comes amid deteriorating bilateral ties. 

The Syrian sanctions bill, which passed the House of Representatives with a majority of 403 to 16, “is incompatible with the spirit of our Nato alliance”, the foreign ministry said.

The sanctions would target senior Turkish government figures and restrict weapons sales. The bill needs to pass the Senate and be signed by Donald Trump.

The US lower house denounced “the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923”. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the Armenian genocide “one of the great atrocities of the 20th century”. 

“Today, let us clearly state the facts on the floor of this house to be etched forever into the congressional record, the barbarism committed against the Armenian people was a genocide,” Pelosi announced. “As international observers wrote at the time, ‘it was a campaign of race extermination’, one that we as members of Congress and as freedom-loving people have a moral obligation to never forget.

“If we ignore history, then we are destined to witness the mistakes of the past be repeated,” Pelosi added. “The recent attacks by the Turkish military against the Kurdish people are a stark and brutal reminder of the danger in our own time.”




The Armenian quarter after the massacres in Adana in 1909. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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