Trump administration rejects Senate resolution recognizing Armenian genocide

The State Department on Tuesday rebuked the Senate’s latest move to recognize the mass killing and deportation of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during the first half of the 20th century as genocide, releasing a statement that the administration continues to view the events as “one of the worst mass atrocities.”

“The position of the Administration has not changed,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. “Our views are reflected in the President’s definitive statement on this issue from last April.”

The global Armenian Remembrance Day is marked on April 24 each year and was commemorated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet MORE with a statement recognizing that beginning in 1915, more than 1.5 million Armenians were “deported, massacred or marched to their deaths” under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

The president did not describe the events as a genocide.

Turkey has spoken out against the U.S. government’s defining of these events as genocide. It claims that the events of the early 20th century are disputed and lack academic consensus.

Last week, the Senate passed by unanimous vote a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide as official U.S. policy.

“I’m thankful that this resolution has passed at a time in which there are still survivors of the genocide who will be able to see that the Senate acknowledges what they went through,” Sen. Bob Melendez (D-N.J.) said on the Senate floor.

The House passed their own version of the resolution in a vote of 405 to 11.

The passage of the resolution was meant as a rebuke of Turkey in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s October decision to launch an offensive into northeastern Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces that the U.S. is allied with in the fight against ISIS.

The resolution is nonbinding, expresses the sense of the Senate and does not need to be signed by the president. The White House had lobbied senators to block the resolution at least three times before it succeeded in coming to the floor.

"This is the third week in a row we have come to the Senate floor seeking to pass this resolution, and I'm grateful that today we have succeeded," Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz scolds reporter who brought up his daughters Can Democrats flip the Texas House? Today's result will provide a clue Republicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap MORE (R-Texas) said during passage. "This is a moment of truth that was far too long coming."

The Senate last week advanced a sanctions bill against Turkey for its actions in northeastern Syria and its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system. The U.S. had earlier removed Turkey from the F-35 program over the Russian arms purchases, further straining relations between the NATO allies.

The White House has held off implementing sanctions on Turkey for purchasing Russian defense weapons.

Lawmakers say the sanctions package will deter a further arms trade relationship between Turkey and Russia and help to stabilize the Syria-Turkey border. 

“This legislation will put in place a number of incentives that we hope will result in President Erdoğan making the choice to walk away from the S-400,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision GOP Foreign Affairs leaders join pushback against potential troop drawdown in Africa Foreign Relations Democrats 'deeply frustrated' after Iran briefing MORE (R-Idaho) said in a statement, adding that the sanctions bill is a warning to the Turkish president.

“Additionally, Erdogan’s incursion into northeast Syria is destabilizing, and this bill will help curb any future actions that endanger our friends and partners, the Syrian Kurds, and any actions which jeopardize the U.S. strategy to defeat ISIS in Syria. I am hopeful this critical legislation will be voted on by the full Senate soon.”