US house panel passes Armenian "genocide" resolution, threatening Turkish-US ties and Turkish-Armenian rapprochement process
Despite pressure from Turkey and last-minute warnings from the White House to turn down a resolution seeking to officially recognize the so-called Armenian "genocide" claims, a key congressional panel voted yesterday to label as "genocide" the incidents of 1915 during World War I, in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. The controversial bill passed the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee in a closer-than-expected vote of 23-22. Turkey strongly rejects the genocide allegations and regards the incidents of 1915 as civil strife in wartime which claimed lives of many Turks and Armenians alike. Prior to the vote, Turkish parliamentary delegations held talks with senior US officials, businesspeople and congressmen to block passage of the resolution. Top Turkish officials warned of fallout if it passed, saying that it would harm not only Turkish-US ties but also the ongoing rapprochement process between Turkey and Armenia, thus endangering peace and stability in the Caucasus. Though Turkey had urged the Obama administration to press the committee to defeat the non-binding resolution since the beginning of the process, officials kept their silence until the last minute. A White House spokesman said yesterday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Howard Berman, the committee's chairman and a fellow Democrat, and warned him of the negative impact that passage of the resolution would have on the reconciliation talks between Turkey and Armenia. In 2007 a similar resolution passed 27-21, but as a result of then President George W. Bush's intervention, the resolution never reached the House floor. Turkey will continue its intensive lobbying efforts in the weeks to come to stop the resolution from going to a full House vote.