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US House Backs Measures Recognizing Armenian Genocide, Turkish Sanctions

© AP Photo / J. Scott ApplewhiteThe Capitol in Washington is seen at dawn, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019.
The Capitol in Washington is seen at dawn, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. - Sputnik International
The US House of Representatives passed a pair of measures on Tuesday on its recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide and the backing of sanctions against Turkey over its Syria offensive, moves further stressing Washington's ties to Ankara.

The House voted 405-11 on a resolution in favor of both recognizing and condemning the Ottoman Empire's killing of approximately 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923, an event that the Turkish government has historically denied and argued accusations about which did not take into account the deaths of Turks. 

“Many American politicians, diplomats and institutions have rightly recognized these atrocities as a genocide, including America's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time, Henry Morgenthau, and Ronald Reagan," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said on the floor prior to the vote, according to The Hill. He went on to assert that "only by shining a light on the darkest parts of our history can we learn not to repeat them." 

The bill's three main points declare the US will commemorate the Armenian genocide, reject "efforts to enlist, engage" or associate in the denial of the genocide and work to educate the public on details surrounding the atrocity. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu fired back at the US lawmakers' backing of the resolution and accused them of "exploiting history in politics." 

The World War I-era genocide has been recognized by Russia, several European Union states and the World Council of Churches. Earlier this year, French President Emmanuel Macron moved to declare April 24 as the country's Day of Armenian Genocide Remembrance

In another Tuesday bipartisan showing, the House, by a 403-16 vote, passed a resolution in favor of sanctions against Turkey over its Operation Peace Spring in Northern Syria. The bill, entitled "Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act," received overwhelming support from the Republican Party, with 176 GOP lawmakers voting in support and only 15 opposed.

“Rather than hold Turkey accountable for how they’ve conducted this bloody campaign, [US President Donald] Trump has given them a free pass,” Engel said Tuesday, as reported by The Hill. “When the head of [Daesh] was finally killed, President Trump unfortunately thanked the Turks, thanked the Turkish government. That just doesn’t sit right with me.”

Cavusoglu also issued a statement in response to the House's move to impose sanctions on Ankara and claimed the measure went against the October 17 ceasefire deal brokered between the US and Turkey. The foreign minister went on to urge other Washington lawmakers to halt sanction efforts altogether and avoid a breakdown in bilateral ties. 

"America is holding accountable top Turkish officials responsible for human rights abuses, including attacking our Kurdish partners," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, reported USA Today. "We're penalizing Turkish financial institutions who perpetuate President Erdogan's corruption and abuses."

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) echoed the speaker's comments on Ankara and called on the US Senate to act with haste and advance the bill. 

The bipartisan bill now moves on to the Senate; however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has previously warned Congress to "think extremely carefully" about rushing to sanction a NATO ally. 

Washington's previous sanctions on Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu were lifted by Trump last week after Ankara agreed to make the northern Syria ceasefire permanent. The US president noted at the time that sanctions would be reinstated if Turkey did not honor their word and adhere to ceasefire obligations. 

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