The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, after several previous attempts to do so were blocked at the direction of the White House.
Senate Resolution 150, introduced by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), expresses “the sense of the Senate that it is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.”
It was passed with unanimous consent by the chamber on Thursday.
From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Anatolia in systematic fashion, with reports of forced displacement, torture, mass killings and mass graves in the region.
Thursday’s Senate resolution recognizes the empire’s “campaign of genocide against Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians.” It comes after the House passed a similar resolution in October recognizing the genocide.
Turkey has long denied that the genocide took place, claiming that the number of those killed was far less than is commonly estimated and that many deaths were due to the ongoing First World War.
In response to the Armenian genocide resolutions passed by the House and then being considered by the Senate, Erdogan in a Nov. 13 joint press conference with President Trump at the White House condemned the congressional efforts to recognize the genocide.
“And some historical developments and allegations are being used in order to dynamite our reciprocal and bilateral relations,” he said. “Especially in the House of Representatives, some of the resolutions that were passed on October 29th served this very purpose and hurt deeply the Turkish nation, and they have a potential of casting a deep shadow over our bilateral relations.”
“Turkey and the United States stand side by side in order to fully eradicate Daesh and in order to bring peace and stability to Syria once and for all,” he said.
After Erdogan’s visit, the genocide resolution was blocked from consideration by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), reportedly at the direction of the White House.
Subsequent attempts to bring the resolution up for consideration were blocked by Sens. David Perdue and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). The White House reportedly did not want the resolution enacted because of ongoing talks with Turkey about its purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system.
Cramer, in a statement provided to CNA, said he offered to block the resolution when informed of the White House’s disapproval. “When I was told of their concern, I said I would block the UC [unanimous consent] if they would like,” he stated.
The campaign of displacement, violence, and killings of Armenians—mostly Christians—by the Ottoman Empire has been recognized by many scholars as genocide. Pope Francis has recognized the genocide several times by name, including at a mass in 2015 shortly before the centenary of the genocide.
In 2015, the Vatican made public some materials from its archives related to the Armenian genocide, including correspondence between the Holy See and regional political and religious leaders.
The archives spanned from decades before 1915, when state-sanctioned violence against Armenians was occurring, to well into the 20th century, and showed efforts by the Vatican to quell the violence against Armenians and to aid the victims of the genocide.
In his June, 2016 visit to Armenia, Pope Francis recognized the “Great Evil” of the “genocide” of Armenians.