The US Senate on December 12 unanimously passed a resolution recognising the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire a century ago as genocide.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian responded to the move as a "victory of justice and truth." He wrote on Twitter: "On behalf of the #Armenian people worldwide, I express our profound appreciation to the Senate for this landmark legislation."
There was predictable anger from Turkey.
"History will note these resolutions as irresponsible and irrational actions by some members of the US Congress against Turkey," Turkey's presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun tweeted. "They will go down in history as the responsible party for causing a long lasting damage between two nations."
New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez pushed the resolution. It recognises the killing of an estimated 1.5mn Armenians from 1915 to 1923 by the Ottoman Empire.
“By passing my Armenian Genocide resolution, the Senate finally stood up to confirm history: What happened from 1915 to 1923 was—most assuredly—genocide. There is no other word for it. There is no euphemism. There is no avoiding it,” said Menendez following the vote.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said the Senate "finally took a stand and spoke the truth—spoke the truth to darkness, spoke truth to evil, spoke truth to murder, spoke truth to genocide—and finally honored the 1.5 million innocent lives lost.”
The Democrat-led House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a similar nonbinding resolution in late October. But three attempts to pass the measure in the Senate were in recent weeks subsequently blocked by individual Republican senators.
"Like many Armenians, I grew up hearing of the genocide’s horrors," Representative Jackie Speier (Democrat-California), co-chair of the Armenian Caucus, wrote in a tweet. "This eases some of that pain & America has sent a clear message—perpetrators will be held accountable."
Congressional aides have previously briefed the press that the White House, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently visited for talks with US counterpart Donald Trump, did not want the legislation to move ahead while it was negotiating with Ankara on sensitive issues such as Turkey's offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria and the Nato ally's acquisition of S-400 advanced missile defence systems from Russia.
During and immediately after World War I, Ottoman Turks killed or deported as many as 1.5mn Armenians. They formed a Christian minority in the mostly Muslim empire and many historians have ever since regarded the killings as genocide.
Turkey refutes the contention that the use of the word genocide to describe the killings is correct. It claims that the deaths were a result of civil strife, and were not a planned annihilation. Ankara also claims fewer Armenians died than has been reported.
At least 23 countries, including France and Germany, have officially recognised the mass slaughter and deportation as genocide.
Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Washington-based Armenian National Committee of America, hailed the vote in the Senate as long overdue.
“What is special about this resolution is that it locks in recognition and very explicitly rejects denial and those are the two key clauses,” Hamparian told RFE/RL.
He added: "Armenian-Americans see this as an important step toward putting America on the right side of this issue.”
Turkey and Armenia do not have diplomatic relations partly because Ankara backs Azerbaijan in its dispute with Yerevan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh territory.
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