Turkey, US Armenians work overtime on possible House 'genocide' vote
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 12/19/2010 12:00:00 AM | ÜMİT ENGİNSOY
Turkey and US-Armenians are making last ditch efforts to sway members of the US House of Representatives to support their respective sides during a potential vote on an Armenian 'genocide' bill.
Turkey and Armenian-Americans are making their last pitches to sway members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support their respective sides during a potential vote Tuesday on an Armenian “genocide” bill.
Turkey and its allies in Washington, mainly the White House and the State Department, are urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a staunch backer of the Armenian cause, to not hold a vote on the resolution, while pro-Armenian groups are pushing for a vote Tuesday.
Most analysts expect the bill to pass, if it comes to a floor vote, mainly because of a negative sentiment toward Turkey currently prevailing in the House.
Armenian supporters sought a vote at the House floor's last meeting last Friday, but no poll took place. The House is next scheduled to meet Tuesday – perhaps the last meeting to pass outstanding legislation, including next year's budget, before the Christmas break.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu talked to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Friday, urging the U.S. administration to work for the resolution's defeat. "I hope such a wrong move [the resolution's passage] will not be made," Davutoglu said Saturday. "Clinton said she would exert all possible effort."
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday the U.S. administration strongly opposed the "genocide" resolution. "We continue to believe that the best way for Turkey and Armenia to address their shared past is through their efforts to normalize relations."
[HH] Armenian side
"The Turkish lobby is attacking this resolution full force, as is President Barack Obama's administration," the Armenian National Committee of America, or ANCA, the largest and most influential U.S-Armenian group, said in a statement Sunday.
"With the truth on our side, we're fighting back. On Capitol Hill and across the country. District by district, we're working to get America on the right side of this issue," it said.
ANCA launched a campaign last week to urge outgoing Speaker Pelosi to bring the measure to a vote before she is replaced by the Republican John Boehner, who opposed a similar resolution in 2007. ANCA said last Friday that a vote could be imminent.
Armenia claims up to 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed in 1915 under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey denies this, saying a much smaller number of deaths were the result of civil strife that erupted when Armenians took up arms in eastern Anatolia.
One Washington-based analyst said time was in Turkey’s favor. "Obama's administration is putting serious pressure on Pelosi to not schedule a vote. As time passes, pressure increases on Pelosi, and eventually she may decline from holding a vote on this matter."
The House Foreign Affairs Committee in March narrowly passed the measure, and the House leadership in September took the bill to its agenda for a potential voting process. The new Congress elected on Nov. 2 will take office on Jan. 3, and any congressional sessions between Nov. 2, the time of the last elections, and the New Year are called "lame-duck" sessions.
The opposition Republican Party won the House's control in the midterm congressional election on Nov. 2, and member Armenian supporters hoped to schedule a full House floor vote on the "genocide" bill before Pelosi cedes her post to Boehner, the present House minority leader.
Turkey has warned that its bilateral relationship with the United States would deteriorate in a significant and lasting way if the U.S. administration or Congress adopted any "genocide" measure.