Trump administration won't call mass killing of Armenians a genocide despite congressional resolutions
Posted December 17, 2019 6:56 p.m. EST
CNN — The Trump administration still does not view the mass killing of Armenians from 1915-1923 as genocide, despite overwhelming bipartisan support by US lawmakers to formally recognize it as such.
In a statement released Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the administration has not changed its position on the matter.
"Our views are reflected in the President's definitive statement on this issue from last April," Ortagus said.
In that statement, which commemorated "Armenian Remembrance Day," President Donald Trump called the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire that took place from 1915 to 1923 "one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century."
"We pledge to learn from past tragedies so as to not to repeat them. We welcome the efforts of Armenians and Turks to acknowledge and reckon with their painful history," Trump said in the statement. The statement did not mention genocide, but did recognize the man who coined the term -- Raphael Lemkin -- for his work seeking "to ensure atrocities like this would not be repeated."
Last week, the Senate passed a resolution to designate the mass killings as a genocide, describing it as "the killing of an estimated 1,500,000 Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923." It passed by unanimous consent after Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, brought it up for consideration on the floor. Under Senate rules, legislation can pass by unanimous consent without a roll call vote as long as no senator objects. Prior to its passage, the Trump administration had asked Republican senators to block the unanimous consent request several times on the grounds that it could undercut negotiations with Turkey.
The House of Representatives passed the resolution recognizing the genocide in October.
The approval of the resolution drew outrage from Turkey, which denies that the events of 1915 that led to the mass killing of Armenians constitute a genocide. The Turks contend that closer to 300,000 Armenians were killed.
In a statement, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the resolution "devoid of historical awareness and any legal base" and damaging to US-Turkey relations. On Friday, US Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield was summoned by the Foreign Ministry over the passage of the resolution.
On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to close, "if necessary," two US military bases in Turkey in response to the genocide resolution and potential US sanctions over his country's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system. In a televised interview, Erdogan called the resolution "completely political," and warned the US "not take irreparable steps in our relations."