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Senate passes Armenian genocide bill in move likely to infuriate Turkey

Erdogan and Trump
Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The Senate passed a resolution via unanimous consent Thursday formally recognizing Turkey's genocide of the Armenian people.

Why it matters: The previous three attempts by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to pass the resolution were blocked by Republican senators at the request of the White House, which feared that its passage would infuriate the Turkish government during a tense period of U.S.-Turkey relations.

  • Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) previously objected to the resolution, but indicated that they were not willing to do so again.
  • Mendendez, who has championed the cause since arriving in the Senate in 2006, became emotional on the Senate floor as he spoke following the passage of the resolution.
“By passing my Armenian Genocide resolution, the Senate finally stood up to confirm history: What happened from 1915 to 1923 was — most assuredly — genocide. There is no other word for it. There is no euphemism. There is no avoiding it. To overlook human suffering is not who we are as a people. It is not what we stand for as a nation. We are better than that, and our foreign policy should always reflect this."
— Bob Menendez

The big picture: Turkey and its NATO allies, including the U.S., have clashed recently over Turkey's purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system, as well as its military assault against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Bipartisan senators have introduced a bill to implement sanctions against Turkey for its S-400 purchase.

What to watch: Turkish spokesperson Fahrettin Altun tweeted a warning in response to the resolution's passage, as well as the sanctions bill advanced by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

"The behavior of some members of the U.S. Congress is damaging the Turkish-American ties. The sanctions bill that passed yesterday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Armenian resolution that passed today in the Senate endanger the future of our bilateral relationship. ... History will note these resolutions as irresponsible and irrational actions by some members of the US Congress against Turkey. They will go down in history as the responsible party for causing a long lasting damage between two nations."

Go deeper: Sen. Cramer blocks Armenian genocide bill at request of White House