WASHINGTON (CNN/CBSLA) – The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a resolution formally recognizing the mass killings of Armenians from 1915 to 1923 as genocide, a move the Turkish government has long opposed.
The resolution states, “it is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance,” describing the genocide 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.
More than 200,000 people of Armenian descent live in Los Angeles County, making it home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia. Every year on April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, tens of thousands of Angelenos hold marches across the region.
L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell issued the following statement following the passage:
“For years, I’ve marched alongside my friends and neighbors in Hollywood and throughout the City of Los Angeles to demand justice and recognition for the atrocities committed against the Armenian people in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. One word accurately describes those actions: genocide. Today, the U.S. Senate joined with the House Representatives to reaffirm acknowledgment of the genocide at the federal level. While today’s vote has no bearing on the incalculable loss of life, heritage, and culture of the ethnic and religious minorities of the Ottoman Empire, it does end our country’s shameful policy of complicity in Turkey’s efforts to erase history and silence those who dare to speak truthfully of the events of 1915.”
The designation as a genocide by Congress is a significant political development as Turkey maintains to this day the killings did not constitute genocide and disputes the death toll, putting the figure closer to 300,000.
All U.S. presidents have also refused to recognize the killings as a genocide, instead calling the mass deaths an atrocity.
Turkish presidential spokesperson Fahrettin Altun tweeted after the vote “The behavior of some members of the U.S. Congress is damaging the Turkish-American ties.”
The Trump administration had asked Republican senators to block similar requests to pass the measure several times in the last few weeks on the grounds that it could undercut negotiations with Turkey. On Thursday, however, there were no objections, clearing that way for the resolution’s approval
The House passed the resolution by a vote of 405-11 in October. The resolution, spearheaded by California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff of California, does not need approval from the White House.
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