White House, State Department Opposed To Bill On Armenian Genocide
WASHINGTON, Sept 25
US President Bill Clinton's administration is firmly opposed to a bill recognizing the 1915 killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide, the State Department said Monday.
"We believe historians rather than legislators should deal with the issue," spokesman Richard Boucher said of the bill, which last week cleared a House of Representatives subcommittee and is expected to be adopted by the full House International Relations Committee on Thursday.
"The administration opposes passage of this resolution and regrets this subcommittee's vote," Boucher told reporters, noting concerns it could hurt relations with Turkey as well as hinder the stabilization of the Caucasus.
"If this resolution is adopted by the full House of Representatives, it may complicate our efforts to bring peace and stability to the Caucasus and harm our relations with Turkey, our strategic partner in the region," he said.
It was not clear when the full House will take up the measure, but the US Congress is scheduled to end its legislative year on October 6.
Turkey rejects claims of genocide, saying that thousands of Turks also died in what was internal fighting during the dissolution years of the Ottoman Empire.
On Sunday, demonstrators took to the streets in front of the US consulate in Turkey's southern city of Adana, burned an Armenian flag and destroyed US-made goods to protest the bill.
Ankara has said the bill is based on "false and distorted data," and Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has called it the work of "irresponsible" US lawmakers.
Boucher noted that a provision in the bill calling for US diplomats to be instructed about the "quote, Armenian genocide, unquote" was irrelevant, as what he called "massacres" of Armenians at the time were already covered in at least two foreign service training courses.
And, he said, Washington would be happy "to facilitate efforts by Turkish and Armenian experts, along with academics from other countries, to explore their common history."
But he reiterated the department's view that the legislation, even though it is in the form of a non-binding resolution, was an ill-considered attempt to take official note of what Armenia claims were the murders of as many as 1.3 million of its people.
"We think the best tribute we can offer to the events of that tragic period
is to work towards regional peace and security," Boucher said.
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