Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

US House recognises Armenian genocide and passes Turkey sanctions

Ilhan Omar was the only Democrat to oppose sanctions on Turkey

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, backdropped by a poster of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, speaks during a ceremony in Istanbul, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. Presidential Press Service via AP
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, backdropped by a poster of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, speaks during a ceremony in Istanbul, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. Presidential Press Service via AP

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly recognised the Armenian genocide and passed sanctions on Turkey on Tuesday.

The vote on the two bills, condemning the actions of the Ottoman Empire – prior to the founding of Turkey – between 1915 and 1923 and Turkey's current incursion into Syria, showed staggering bipartisan support behind a harder line on the country.

The first bill, calling the historical mass killings of Armenians a genocide, had the approval of 405 politicians and the opposition of 11.

The second related to the attack on Kurds in Syria was backed by 403 representatives.

Congressman Adam Schiff, who sponsored the Armenian genocide bill, connected the events from a century ago to the actions of Turkey in Syria today.

“Given that the Turks are once again involved in ethnic cleansing the population, this time the Kurds, it seemed all the more appropriate to bring up a resolution about the Ottoman efforts to annihilate an entire people in the Armenian genocide,” Mr Schiff said.

The sanctions bill states that if Ankara does not halt its Syrian incursion, Turkish military officials will be penalised and US sales to Turkey of weapons that could be used in Syria will be blocked.

The Senate will take up the bill next.

Democrats Senator Chris Van Hollen tweeted that it sent "a signal that Congress will not stand by while Turkey and its proxies slaughter our Syrian Kurdish allies and fuel the revival of ISIS".

"The Senate must stop dithering and act. The lives of our allies and our security are at risk," he said.

Muslim-American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar voted against the sanctions on Turkey, and did not take a position on the Armenian genocide bill, for which she voted “present.”

“Accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight,” Ms Omar said, according to CNN.

Her vote was heavily criticised on social media even from her progressive base.

Some tweeted a photo of her meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2017. Mr Erdogan is due to visit Washington on November 13.

The Armenian Genocide bill is not legally binding, and US President Donald Trump will have the authority to execute or shelve the sanctions bill if it passes the Senate.

Updated: October 30, 2019 03:28 PM

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