Oct 30, 2019 - Politics & Policy

House backs sanctions on Turkey and recognizes Armenian genocide

Photos of Armenian intellectuals arrested by Ottoman forces in 1915

Photos of Armenian intellectuals (L-R) Krikor Zohrab, Ruben Sevak, Daniel Varoujan, Komitas and Siamanto, who were among those arrested by Ottoman forces in 1915, at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial, in Yerevan, Armenia'. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

The House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to recognize the mass killing of Armenians by Turkish nationalists during World War I as "genocide," hours after advancing a bill to impose sanctions on Turkey — which swiftly condemned the action.

Why it matters: American ally Turkey, which has long denied that a genocide occurred against the Armenians, warned U.S.-Turkish relations could be damaged by the actions of the House.

  • The sanctions vote was a rebuke for President Trump, who announced last Wednesday that they would be lifted after the Turkish government had agreed to a permanent ceasefire following an offensive against the United States' Kurdish allies.
  • The New York Times notes that House Republicans "broke from President Trump en masse for a second time this month to condemn his foreign policy in Syria" by backing the sanctions.

What they're saying: The Turkish government issued a statement calling on the U.S. administration " to take necessary steps to prevent the further deterioration of our relations" soon after the draft sanctions bill passed 403 to 16.

  • Turkish authorities issued another scathing statement after the House passed the Armenian genocide bill 405-11.
  • "The U.S. Administration and politicians as well as the American people are best placed to consider the damages this resolution seeking to disrupt Turkey-U.S. ties does and will inflict upon the U.S. interests at an extremely fragile time in terms of the international and regional security," it said.

The big picture: Per the BBC, Turkey disputes the accounts of what happened to the Armenians, who were killed "or died from starvation or disease" after being deported from eastern Anatolia to areas including the Syrian desert in 1915-16.

  • "Armenians say 1.5 million died," the BBC notes. "The Republic of Turkey estimates the total to be 300,000. According to the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), the death toll was 'more than a million'."

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