Senators reportedly blocked Armenian genocide resolutions at White House request

Senator Lindsey Graham speaks at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington DC Sept 8 2015 Credit Albert H Teich Shutterstock Senator Lindsey Graham speaks at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8, 2015. | Albert H. Teich/Shutterstock

Congressional resolutions recognizing the Armenian genocide were reportedly blocked by Republican senators at the direction of the White House.

Axios reported Saturday that a resolution recognizing the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire that had overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives was recently blocked from moving forward in the Senate by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), after the White House requested he do so.

The House passed the resolution recognizing the genocide Oct. 29, just over two weeks before an official visit of Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House. The resolution sponsored by Rep. Adan Schiff (D-Calif.) said it is U.S. policy to recognize and commemorate the Armenian genocide.

The advocacy group In Defense of Christians praised the resolution as "a clear condemnation of the Turkish government's denial of the atrocities committed by their predecessor's against Christians."

The resolution was a controversial topic around Erdogan's visit to the White House.

In a joint press conference with President Trump Nov. 13, Erdogan said the resolution was one of the "allegations" that "hurt deeply the Turkish nation."

"The decision makers in an incident that took place about 104 years ago should not be politicians, but historians. We have nothing to hide, and we have a full self-esteem in that regard," he said.

"I believe the Senate will take this -- take the United States out of this vicious cycle, which happened as a result of the resolution of the House of Representatives," he said.

Many scholars have recognized the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923 by name; in that span, the Armenian minority-mostly Christians-in eastern Anatolia was systematically displaced and annihilated by the Ottoman Empire. The death toll of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs is estimated to be around 1.5 million.
Turkey has long denied that genocide took place, claiming the number of deaths is far less than estimated and that they were largely due to conflicts related to World War I.

On the centenary of the genocide in 2015, the Vatican published its archive of documents related to its work helping the genocide victims in the region. Pope Francis has also referred to the killings as genocide several times.

The House resolution would have established it as U.S. policy that the genocide took place. However, the White House reportedly did not want to let the resolution torpedo its efforts to get Turkey to reject an S-400 missile system from Russia.

Graham told Axios he was asked by the White House to block the resolution in the Senate; another resolution that was introduced in the Senate which recognized the genocide was also blocked by Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) reportedly at the request of the White House.

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