WASHINGTON–Against the backdrop of severe opposition and pressure, the Armenian Genocide resolution, H.Res. 252, cleared a critical hurdle Thursday, when the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted in favor of the bill—23 to 22—paving the way for a vote by the entire House of Representatives.
The passage of the bill elicited immediate reactions, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling on the entire House to not pass the measure, and the Turkish government recalling its newly-appointed ambassador to the US.
Three Genocide survivors and several members of the Armenian-American community, as well as Armenia’s ambassador to the US Tatul Markarian and an Armenian parliamentary delegation were on hand when Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the committee, opened the hearing at 7 a.m.
In his introductory remarks, Berman underlined the undisputed fact of the Armenian Genocide, noted that the overwhelming majority of scholars affirm the fact of the genocide, and urged his colleagues for vote for it. He added, “It is now time for Turkey to acknowledge the reality of the Armenian Genocide.”
The passage of this resolution by the committee is a tribute to the hard work of the Armenian-American community against substantial lobbying by the government of Turkey. We hope that this is the first step towards the United States of America soon joining Canada in recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
Turkey Recalls Ambassador
Turkey says it is recalling its ambassador to the U.S. for consultations following a resolution declaring the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I genocide, reported AP.
The move came minutes after the U.S. congressional panel approved the resolution Thursday.
A government statement said Ambassador Namik Tan was being recalled with immediate effect.
Bill Author, Adam Schiff, Applauds Win
“A bipartisan majority today rejected Turkey’s gag rule, setting the stage for Speaker Pelosi and the full U.S. House to properly commemorate the Armenian Genocide. The Committee’s message was simple yet powerful: Turkey doesn’t get a vote or a veto in the U.S. Congress,” said a statement by Armenian National Committee of America chairman Ken Hachikian.
“As Americans of Armenian heritage, it holds great meaning to see our nation move one step closer to putting the painful lessons of the Armenian Genocide to work in helping to end the cycle of genocide, in Darfur and around the world,” added Hachikian.
“A moral foreign policy has always been among our strongest assets and one of the greatest forces for good in the world. Despite Turkey’s last minute threats and intimidation, Chairman Berman and the House Foreign Affairs Committee have shown that it’s always the right time to do the right thing,” concluded Hachikian.
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) praised the passage of the resolution he authored recognizing and commemorating the Armenian Genocide.
“The facts of history are clear, well documented, and non-negotiable. One and a half million Armenians were deliberately murdered in the first genocide of the 20th century. If we are to avoid this horrific crime in the future, we must be willing to condemn genocide whenever and wherever it occurs.” said Schiff. “Today’s Committee passage clears a major hurdle in moving this resolution forward. I will be working with my colleagues to ensure floor action for this important bill.”
“The Affirmation of the U.S. Record on the Armenian Genocide” resolution calls on the President to “ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding” of the “Armenian Genocide” and to “accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide.”
Clinton said the full U.S. Congress shouldn’t vote on a resolution passed by a House committee Thursday.
“We do not believe that the full Congress will or should vote on that resolution and we have made that clear to all the parties involved,” Clinton told reporters at a conference in Costa Rica.
After remaining silent on the Thursday vote, both President Obama and Clinton made an eleventh-hour effort to derail the hearing, saying that the Genocide issue was a matter to be resolved between Turkey and Armenia and that the resolution would adversely impact the Armenia-Turkey protocols now awaiting ratification in the parliaments of the two countries.
After speaking to Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Wednesday, President Obama Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reach out to Berman.
“Secretary Clinton called Chairman Berman yesterday and in that conversation the Secretary indicated that further Congressional action could impede progress on normalization of relations,” said National Security Staff spokesman Mike Hammer.
The conversation took place after the president spoke with President Gul and “expressed appreciation” for his and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “efforts on normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia.”
The president also “pressed for rapid ratification of the protocols,” Hammer said, referring to efforts at normalization between Armenia and Turkey.
“Our focus is on ensuring that we continue to make progress on an issue that for almost a hundred years has divided two countries,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.
Below is the vote tally:
(chair) Berman – Y
Ackerman – Y
Faleomavaega – Y
Payne – Y
Sherman – Y
Engel – Y
Delahunt – N
Meeks – N
Watson – Y
Carnahan – N
Sires – Y
Connolly – N
McMahon – N
Tanner – N
Green – Y
Woolsey – Y
Jackson-Lee – abs
Lee – Y
Berkley – Y
Crowley – Y
Ross – N
Miller – N
Scott – N
Costa – Y
Ellison – Y
Giffords – Y
Klein – Y