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Armenian Genocide Resolution Introduced In US House January 30, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Democratic and Republican lawmakers have introduced a resolution urging the government to recognize as genocide the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians at the end of World War I.

The measure is likely to touch raw nerves in Turkey, which rejects the charge that genocide was at the root of the deaths. The Bush administration has warned that even congressional debate on the matter could damage relations with Turkey, a vital Muslim ally and member of NATO.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a co-sponsor, acknowledged that the resolution might harm U.S.-Turkish relations in the short term. Nevertheless, he said, “I’m optimistic that the relationship will go on. We will move beyond this.”

Sponsors of the measure, who held a news conference Tuesday attended by two Armenian survivors of the episode, say that the move to Democratic control in Congress increases chances that it will reach the House floor for a vote. Similar resolutions have been introduced in the past but were kept from a vote by congressional leaders.

“We feel very strongly that this year is the year we’re going to get this passed,” said another co-sponsor, Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., whose state, New Jersey, has a large Armenian-American community.

The resolution’s supporters say that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has expressed her support, is likely to come under pressure from the Bush administration to keep the House from voting.

“Make no mistake, the speaker will get a call from the president asking for no vote on the grounds of national security,” said Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif., a co-sponsor.

Bush issues a statement every year to commemorate the event. He has used such words as “tragedy,” “forced exile” and “terrible events” but not “genocide.” In Turkey, it is a crime to use the word to describe the deaths.

Turkey has adamantly denied claims by scholars that its predecessor state, the Ottoman government, caused the Armenian deaths in a genocide. The Turkish government has said the toll is wildly inflated, and Armenians were killed or displaced in civil unrest during the disarray surrounding the empire’s collapse.

After French lawmakers voted in October to make it a crime to deny that the killings were a genocide, Turkey said it would suspend military relations with France. Turkey provides vital support to U.S. military operations. Incirlik Air Force Base, a major base in southern Turkey, has been used by the U.S. to launch operations into Iraq and Afghanistan and was a center for U.S. fighters that enforced the “no-fly zones” that kept the Iraqi air force bottled up after the 1991 Gulf War.

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