Trump staff helped block Armenian genocide vote: senator
US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says he blocked an official resolution recognising Turkey’s Armenian genocide on the request of Donald Trump’s staff.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was visiting the US during the vote.
The genocide refers to the planned slaughter and deportation of Armenians within the Ottoman Empire after 1915, often from systematic ill-treatment, exposure and starvation.
By the early 1920s – when the killings ended – between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians were dead, with many more forced into exile.
The South Carolina senator said he was asked by the White House this month to block the resolution after a meeting with Trump and Erdogan.
Graham had denounced Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria during the Oval Office meeting.
He reportedly criticised Erdogan, in front of Trump, dismissing Turkish claims that the Kurdish forces are a terrorist group.
But Graham said later that day he voted against the genocide measure at the request of the White House.
“After the meeting, we kind of huddled up and talked about what happened,” the senator said. “The only reason I did it is because he [Erdogan] was still in town. … That would’ve been poor timing. I’m trying to salvage the relationship if possible.”
Graham told the media he rejected Erdogan’s claims about the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). He said: “I let Turkey know that 10,000 SDF fighters, mostly Kurds, suffered, died or injured, in the fight against Isis, and America will not forget that and will not abandon them.”
Graham said he would not object to the Armenian resolution next time but it failed at another vote last week.
Georgia Republican Senator David Perdue, an ally of Trump, was “asked” by the White House to block the measure, Axios reported.
The word “genocide” and its codification in international law is rooted in the mass murder of Armenians.
Lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term and was its later champion at the United Nations, said his early exposure to newspaper stories about the slaughter was fundamental to his beliefs about the need for the legal protection of groups, which was then enshrined in the UN Genocide Convention of 1948.
Turkey refuses to acknowledge the scope of the genocide, saying it was a consequence of the wider war.
During the 15th century, Christian Armenia was occupied by the Muslim Ottomans who permitted religious minorities to maintain some autonomy. But Armenians, who were often viewed as “infidels”, were subjected to unequal treatment within the vast empire.
Christians had to pay higher taxes than Muslims and they had few political and legal rights.
Armenian and Greek refugees near Athens in 1923. Picture credit: Wikimedia