WASHINGTON (AP)–A U.S. congressional resolution that would recognize the Armenian Genocide could go forward to a full House vote despite opposition from the Obama administration.
Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon told reporters that there is no deal with Democratic congressional leaders to block the resolution. That contradicts earlier claims by the State Department.
“Congress is an independent body and they are going to do what they decide to do,” Gordon said ahead of speech at the Brookings Institution.
Turkey vehemently opposes the resolution. It withdrew its ambassador to Washington this month after the US House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the measure. The Obama administration has urged lawmakers not to allow it to proceed to a vote by the whole House of Representatives.
It is not clear that proponents of the resolution have sufficient support to pass it or that the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, is prepared to bring it to the floor for a vote.
“I recognize that we have a tough job ahead of us to garner the necessary support,” said the resolution’s chief sponsor, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.
Gordon said that the resolution had created an obstacle for reconciliation talks between Turkey and Armenia. The two countries reached a deal last year to normalize relations and open their border, but it has not yet been ratified by their governments.
Gordon denied that the process has stalled.
“I really think that those two countries’ leaderships are committed to doing this,” he told reporters.
He said that the Obama administration thinks that the historical issues are best addressed by the two countries as part of the normalization talks.
Gordon claimed the congressional committee’s vote had set back U.S.-Turkish relations at a time that the United States is seeking help from Ankara on reining in Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He said that the United States has not seen a deterioration of cooperation with Turkey on a wide range of foreign policy.
In his speech that was mostly positive on U.S.-Turkish relations, Gordon urged Turkey to step up pressure on Iran, a neighbor and important trading partner. He criticized Ankara for abstaining on a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency demanding that Iran suspend construction of a once secret nuclear facility near the city of Qom.
“With respect to Iran, while the international community has sought to present a single, coordinated message to Iran’s government, Turkey has at times sounded a different note,” Gordon said, according to prepared text of the speech.