Armenia Hails Genocide Bill Advance in Congress

YEREVAN (Reuters)–Armenia welcomed on Tuesday last week’s tentative step by US lawmakers toward recognizing accusations that Turks carried out genocide against Armenia’s 85 years ago.

Turkey has strongly condemned the September 21 decision by a House of Representatives International Relations subcommittee.

The subcommittee approved a non-binding resolution for President Bill Clinton to “characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenia’s as genocide.”

“We welcome the decision of the Congress’ subcommittee,” Armenian Foreign Ministry press secretary Ara Papyan said.

“This is a serious step towards determining the truth.”

The US vote sparked a furious backlash in Turkey.

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit called it “baseless and regrettable.”

The view in Ankara is that the House subcommittee was acting to curry favor with the large Armenian Diaspora in the United States in an election year.

The State Department dissociated itself on Monday from a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: “The administration opposes passage of this resolution and regrets this subcommittee’s vote.”

“We believe historians rather than legislators should deal with the issue. We’re prepared to facilitate efforts by Turkish and Armenian experts–along with academics from other countries–to explore their common history,” he added.

Boucher declined to endorse the expression “Armenian genocide,” using it only between inverted commas–and said the massacre of Armenia’s in 1915 was already covered in two courses taught to US diplomats in training.

“If this resolution is adopted by the full House of Representatives–it may complicate our efforts to bring peace and stability to the Caucasus and harm our relations with Turkey–our strategic partner in the region,” he added.

Asked about Turkish press reports that Ankara was thinking of closing the Incirlik air base to US planes–Boucher said: “I think it’s very much in our mutual interest that important bilateral ties withstand this resolution–and that the important efforts that we make along with our other NATO allies are able to continue.”

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