Senate approves resolution recognising early 20th century killings of Armenians as ‘genocide’, a label Turkey rejects.
Turkey has reacted angrily at the US Senate move to unanimously pass on Thursday a resolution recognising as a “genocide” the mass killings of Armenians a century ago.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the vote a “political show” on social media, adding that “it is not legally binding and it has no validity whatsoever.”
The historic move dealt another blow to the already problematic ties between Ankara and Washington, DC.
Turkey’s state-run news agency, Anadolu, quoted Cavusoglu as saying that those who use history for political purposes are “cowards who do not want to face the truth”.
Turkey’s foreign ministry also issued a statement condemning the vote as “one of the shameful examples of how history can be politicised”, Anadolu reported.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart.
They say the mass killings amounted to “genocide”, a claim recognised by about 30 countries.
Turkey strongly denies the accusation of “genocide” and says Armenians and Turks died as a result of World War I. It puts the death toll in the hundreds of thousands from both sides.
Turkey’s position on the events is that the deaths took place when some sided with invading Russians, and revolted against Ottoman forces.
Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia to examine the long-running controversy.
In October, the Democratic-led House of Representatives had passed the resolution by an overwhelming majority.
“This is a tribute to the memory of 1.5 million victims of the first #Genocide of the 20th century and bold step in promotion of the prevention agenda. #NeverAgain,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on social media following the vote.
The resolution asserts that it is US policy to commemorate as genocide the killings during the Ottoman Empire, which was centred in present-day Turkey.
US Congressional aides said the White House does not want the legislation to move ahead while it negotiates with Ankara on sensitive issues.
However, since the meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in November, the Turkish president repeatedly said that Ankara has no intention of dropping the Russian S-400 air defence missile systems it has bought, crushing any hopes for progress.
For decades, measures recognising the Armenian genocide have stalled in the US Congress, stymied by concerns about relations with Turkey and intense lobbying by Ankara.