Trump refuses to back recognition of Armenian genocide after Erdogan threat

Bipartisan Senate resolution passed in defiance of US president

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 17 December 2019 16:16 GMT
Erdogan threatens to recognise killings of Native Americans as genocide in response to Armenia resolution

Donald Trump's administration has rejected a US Senate resolution recognising the Armenian genocide, just a day after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to recognise the killing of Native Americans in retaliation.

The Senate measure was rejected by the State Department on Tuesday, with a spokesperson for the department indicating that US position on the matter did not change.

"The position of the Administration has not changed," said spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, in a statement to the Hill. "Our views are reflected in the President's definitive statement on the issue from last April."

The US Senate had passed a resolution unanimously last week to recognise the Armenian genocide as a matter of foreign policy, in a rare showing of bipartisanship on a deeply divisive issue and in spite of the Trump administration's objections. It marked the first time that the US Congress had formally designated the 1915 killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as a genocide.

"To overlook human suffering is not who we are as a people," said senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey who co-sponsored the legislation alongside Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz, during an emotional speech moments before the legislation was passed. "It is not what we stand for as a nation. We are better than that, and our foreign policy should always reflect this."

The Senate vote came after the House approved the measure last month, with a vote that came while Mr Trump and Mr Erdogan were meeting in the Oval Office.

Following the Senate vote last week, Mr Erdogan threatened to recognise the killing of Native Americans by European settlers in America, as they moved across the country and displaced and killed entire populations.

"We should oppose [the US] by reciprocating such decisions in parliament. And that is what we will do," Mr Erdogan said during an interview on the pro-government A Haber news channel.

"Can we speak about America without mentioning [Native Americans]? It is a shameful moment in US history," he continued.

In its statement, the State Department pointed to Mr Trump's 24 April comments, which fell on the Global Armenian Remembrance Day. During his statement, Mr Trump recognised that over a million and a half Armenians were "deported, massacred or marched to their deaths" under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

He did not describe the events as genocide. While former president Barack Obama described the events as a genocide as a candidate in 2008, his administration later assured the Turkish government that it did not support a resolution recognising the killings as a genocide.

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