October 3, 2007
Source: Los Angeles Times (California)
By Richard Simon
WASHINGTON -- A top congressional Democratic leader predicted Tuesday that a controversial resolution calling the early 20th century killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a genocide will pass the House. That expectation came despite Bush administration worries that the vote would offend Turkey, an important U.S. ally.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a co-sponsor, made that prediction. He said he hoped for a vote before Thanksgiving.
he resolution's supporters believed its prospects brightened after Democrats took control of Congress this year and Nancy Pelosi, who backs the measure, became speaker.
But the House has not acted even though the bill has gained 226 cosponsors, more than a majority. On Tuesday, however, the House Foreign Affairs Committee scheduled a vote on the resolution for Oct. 10. Lobbying, both for and against it, has picked up.
"We're encouraged," said Rep. George Radanovich (R-Mariposa), a chief sponsor. "This is not about the present government, nor about the Turkish people," Hoyer said in an interview. "It is about a tragic effort that was made by a previous government almost a century ago, in which we believe very strongly that a genocide was perpetrated on the Armenian people. If we are not to relive and see again those kinds of incidents, it's important that we remember them historically and make sure the world condemns such actions."
No date has been set for action in the Senate, where the resolution has 31 cosponsors, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). A Senate leadership aide said the chamber might consider the resolution once the House acts.
The resolution, which calls on the president to use the word genocide when discussing "the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians," has been opposed by President Bush, a Republican, just as it was opposed by President Clinton, a Democrat.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, a Democratic presidential candidate, is a cosponsor of the resolution.
Eight former secretaries of state from Democratic and Republican administrations recently signed a letter to Pelosi warning that passage of the resolution "could endanger our national security interests in the region, including our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and damage efforts to promote reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey."
But Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian also wrote to Pelosi, saying: "To view acknowledgment of the truth as an obstacle to political relations is cynical. A resolution that addresses matters of human rights and genocide cannot damage anyone's bilateral relations - neither yours with Turkey, nor ours."
Armenians say that 1.5 million of their people perished as part of a campaign to drive them out of eastern Turkey. The Turkish government has contended that large numbers of both Armenians and Turks died as a result of civil war, famine and disease that plagued the country.
Similar resolutions were approved by the House in 1975 and 1984, but did not make it through the Senate. A 1990 resolution was blocked by a Senate filibuster.
"The United States has a compelling historical and moral reason to recognize the Armenian genocide, which cost a million and a half people their lives," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), a chief sponsor of the resolution.
"But we also have a powerful contemporary reason as well. How can we take effective action against the genocide in Darfur if we lack the will to condemn genocide whenever and wherever it occurs?"