White House Rejects Senate Recognition of Armenian Genocide
In a move aimed at placating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Trump Administration is refusing to back last week’s unanimous vote by the Republican-led Senate to recognize as a genocide the slaughter of some 1.5 Armenians by Ottoman-era Turks. Ankara responded to the bill’s passage by summoning the US ambassador for a dressing down, and by threatening to close the Incirlik air base, which houses American troops and where the US has deployed an estimated 50 tactical nuclear weapons. Shortly thereafter, a State Department spokesperson made clear that “the position of the administration has not changed,” referring to a declaration made by President Donald Trump on Armenian Remembrance Day. The April 24 presidential statement honored “the memory of those who suffered in one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.” However, in keeping with longstanding US policy, it did not refer to the killings – primarily carried out during World War I – as a “genocide.” Washington has maintained this stance in order not to upset NATO-ally Turkey even though relations between the two countries remain strained. In this respect, President Trump has threatened to sanction Ankara over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, which is not interoperable with NATO military equipment and could jeopardize the safety of US F-35 stealth fighter jets in the Middle East. Presidents Trump and Erdogan have also sparred over Washington’s support for Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria – Turkey claims they are associated with the banned PKK – as well as the White House’s refusal to extradite exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup.