WASHINGTON – The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday narrowly approved an Armenian genocide resolution over last-minute objections by the Obama administration.
After an extended debate that awoke many old ghosts, the committee approved the resolution 23-22. The measure would put the House of Representatives on record as applying the word “genocide” to a man-made catastrophe in which, by some estimates, 1.5 million Armenians died from 1915 to 1923 during the final days of the Ottoman Empire.
“I don’t pretend to be a professional historian,” said committee Chairman Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., “but the vast majority of experts agree that the tragic massacre of Armenians constitutes a genocide.”
The nine-page resolution says that “the failure of the domestic and international authorities to punish those responsible for the Armenian genocide is a reason why similar genocides have recurred and may recur in the future.”
The Turkish government in Ankara recalled its newly appointed ambassador to the United States, Namik Tan, shortly after the House committee voted, for what were described as “consultations.” The Turkish government took a similar step in 2007 after an earlier committee vote.
The resolution is nonbinding and doesn’t need a presidential signature or Senate action. Even so, its long-term future was cast into serious doubt with the Obama administration’s decision to explicitly oppose a measure that the president and his top advisers once supported.
Now that it’s explicit, the Obama administration’s resistance will make it harder for supporters to rally the 218 co-sponsors that are needed for full House passage. Three years ago, a similar resolution that had won committee approval withered in the face of opposition from the Bush administration.