Congress Recognizes Armenian Genocide Amid Tensions with Turkey

(Bloomberg) -- The Senate adopted a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, following House approval of a similar measure, despite opposition from President Donald Trump’s State Department on concerns that it would further complicate ties with Turkey.

The Republican-led chamber cleared the measure Thursday without objection -- the fourth attempt by Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, to seek unanimous consent for the resolution. At the request of the White House, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, David Perdue and Kevin Cramer blocked previous attempts, saying they didn’t want to anger a NATO ally during a time of high tensions.

U.S. lawmakers were outraged by Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria after Trump abruptly withdrew troops from the Kurdish-held region in October. They have also been highly critical of Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, which should trigger sanctions under existing law.

Republican senators personally expressed their concerns to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when Trump hosted him in the White House last month. Their complaints weren’t heeded, and Turkey began testing the S-400 shortly thereafter.

Menendez said during a Foreign Relations Committee meeting Wednesday that he was worried the U.S. was being held “hostage to Turkey.” Senator Ted Cruz, the co-sponsor of the legislation, said the administration has given “no good reason” to block the resolution. The Republican-led panel in Wednesday’s session also voted to advance additional sanctions against Turkey.

The House voted in October 405-11 to condemn the Ottoman Empire’s massacre of 1.5 million Armenians early in the last century, ignoring Turkey’s longstanding opposition to the measure. The House and Senate votes on these resolutions amount to the official U.S. government recognition of the massacre and do not require Trump’s signature.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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