In a historic move, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to recognise the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 as genocide. The House voted 405-11 in favor of the resolution, as it finally resisted the long and painstaking Turkish lobbying against calling the killing of 1.5 million people by the Ottoman empire as genocide.
Several countries around the world have recognised the Ottoman slaughter of Armenian Christians as a genocide, but the US federal government has refrained from doing so as Turkey is a NATO ally. Though most of the US states have also termed the mass killing as genocide, the Congress has been soft-pedalling the issue as it did not want to rub the Nato ally the wrong way.
The latest development has come at a time when the US-Turkish relations are at a low point following the Turkish offensive against the Kurds in northern Syria.
"The House declared that it will no longer be party to the cause of genocide denial. This is a vote I have fought for 19 years to make possible, and one that tens of thousands of my Armenian American constituents have worked, struggled, and prayed for decades to see," said California Democrat Adam Schiff, who sponsored the historic resolution.
The House move can also be seen as a rebuke to President Donald Trump, whose decision to withdraw US troops from the Syrian Kurdish areas paved the way for Tayyip Eredogan to launch a military offensive targeting the Kurds. The House also voted on Tuesday to impose sanctions on Turkey.
"If we ignore history, then we are destined to witness the mistakes of the past be repeated ... Recent attacks by the Turkish military against the Kurdish people are a stark reminder of the danger in our own time," House speaker Nancy Pelosi said, seeking support for the resolution.
What is Armenian genocide?
As per the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), "more than a million" Armenians died under the persecution of the Ottoman empire, which is modern day Turkey, during 1915-16. The Armenians were driven en masse from eastern Anatolia to the Syrian desert by the Turks. Thousands of them were killed while more perished due to starvation and diseases. While historians around the world say the mass murder was carried out in order to annihilate the Christian Armenian people, Turkey has held the view that there was no systematic plan of ethnic cleansing.
The Turkish government, which has been spending top dollar to stop governments from recognising the Armenian massacre as genocide, reacted strongly to the US move. Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the move was "a meaningless political step.
"The US Administration and politicians as well as the American people are best placed to consider the damages this resolution seeking to disrupt Turkey-US ties does and will inflict upon the US interests at an extremely fragile time in terms of the international and regional security," he said in a statement.