March 5, 2010 / 12:48 AM / 7 years ago

No House vote set on Turkey-Armenia issue-aide

3 Min Read

<p>Armenian orphans are seen in a photo taken by John Elder as he traveled throughout Armenian populated regions between 1917 and 1919.Armenian National Institute/Elder Photo Collection/Handout</p>

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There are no plans at this point for the full U.S. House of Representatives to vote on a resolution branding as genocide the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces, a Democratic leadership aide said on Friday.

Despite appeals from the Obama administration, the House Foreign Affairs Committee narrowly approved a nonbinding resolution on Thursday labeling the killings as genocide, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador from Washington.

"There are no plans to schedule it at this point," the aide said of the measure that the administration said could hurt ties with a NATO ally that is important for U.S. interests in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Advocates of the largely symbolic measure would have to show Democratic leaders they have the votes to pass it before it would be brought to the House floor, another Democratic aide said. Both aides spoke on condition that they not be named.

The issue puts Obama between Turkey, a secular Muslim democracy that looks toward the West, and Armenian-Americans, an important constituency in states like California and New Jersey, ahead of the November congressional elections.

Turkish leaders reacted with fury after the House committee passed the resolution on a 23-22 vote, and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned of possible damage to relations with the United States.

<p>A government feeding station in Yerevan is seen in a photo taken by John Elder as he traveled throughout Armenian populated regions between 1917 and 1919.Armenian National Institute/Elder Photo Collection/Handout</p>

But Turkey said on Friday that it would push on with efforts to normalize ties with Armenia despite the vote.

Vote Counting

Slideshow (3 Images)

An Armenian-American leader said supporters would gather next week to do a "whip count" of House backers of the resolution that calls on Obama to ensure U.S. policy recognizes the 1915 massacres as genocide.

Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's staff had indicated some time ago that the resolution would get a floor vote when backers could show it would pass.

The resolution has 137 co-sponsors, which is one measure of support and not close to the majority of 217 that would be needed to pass. There are 432 House members at the moment.

Muslim Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks but denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide -- a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments.

The resolution urges Obama to use the term "genocide" when he delivers his annual message on the Armenian massacres in April, something he avoided doing last year.

Editing by Vicki Allen

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