Time for U.S. to take stand against Turkish genocide denial - congressman

Two U.S. congressmen on Monday introduced a resolution calling for recognition of the Armenian genocide as official U.S. policy and a rejection of Turkey’s denial, Armenian news outlet Asbarez reported.  

Their resolution, supported by more than 70 House colleagues, seeks to establish as U.S. policy the rejection of Armenian genocide denial, U.S. government recognition and remembrance of the crime and the importance of education about the early 20th century crime, according to Asbarez.

Turkey has long denied accusations of genocide, saying hundreds of thousands of Armenians and Turks died in clashes after ethnic Armenians in Ottoman territory sided with Russia in World War One.

“Official recognition of the Armenian genocide would represent a courageous new chapter in American foreign policy,” said co-sponsor Gus Bilirakis, a Republican from Florida. “With the bold leadership of the current administration, it is time for the United States to take a stand against Turkish genocide denial.”

His co-sponsor Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, said genocide denial only encouraged similar campaigns today.

“Over 100 years ago, the Ottoman Empire undertook a brutal campaign of murder, rape, and displacement against the Armenian people that took the lives of 1.5 million men, women, and children in the first genocide of the 20th century,” said Schiff.

“Genocide is not a relic of the past, but an ever-present threat,” he said. “It is therefore all the more pressing that the Congress recognise the historical fact of the Armenian genocide and make clear that we will never be an accomplice to denial.”

Governments and parliaments of 29 countries, including Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Russia, have recognised the events as genocide. As of last month, all U.S. states except Mississippi have recognised the Armenian genocide as well.

Several previous resolutions urged the U.S. government to follow suit, including one by Schiff in 2007, but none passed. Before taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama vowed to recognise the genocide, but failed to do so while in office.

Some observers thought this resolution had a better chance of success, in light of increased tensions of late between Turkey and the United States.

“It seems like the conditions have been getting more and more favourable, as Turkey's star in Washington is falling precipitously,” Joshua Kucera, Turkey and Caucasus editor for EurasiaNet, tweeted early Tuesday.