WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives said on Sunday she intends to press ahead on a resolution calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide, despite White House concerns it will damage relations with Turkey, a supporter of the Iraq war.
“I said if it passed the committee that we would bring it to the floor,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told ABC television’s “This Week.”
A congressional committee on Wednesday approved the Armenian resolution, sponsored by a California lawmaker whose district has a large Armenian-American constituency.
The full House is due to vote on the strictly symbolic measure by mid-November.
President George W. Bush has adamantly opposed the resolution, warning that it would interfere with Turkey’s support for U.S. troops in Iraq and harm relations with an important ally.
“We regret that Speaker Pelosi is intent on bringing this resolution for a vote despite the strong concerns expressed by foreign policy and defense experts,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in Crawford, Texas where Bush is spending the weekend at his ranch.
“We continue to strongly to oppose this resolution which may do grave harm to U.S.-Turkish relations and to U.S. interests in Europe and the Middle East,” he said.
Pelosi, of California, said her determination to bring the measure to a vote has not wavered despite Bush’s warnings that it would pose problems for the U.S. effort in Iraq.
“Some of the things that are harmful to our troops relate to values,” Pelosi said. “I think that our troops are well-served when we declare who we are as a country and increase the respect that people have for us as a nation.”
The issue is highly sensitive in Turkey, where it is a crime to describe those events as genocide. Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States for consultations after the House committee vote.
Turkey’s military chief has said ties between the United States and Turkey would “never be the same again” if Congress approves the resolution.
Congressional Republicans urged Pelosi to block the measure from coming to a vote by the full House.
“Bringing this bill to the floor may be the most irresponsible thing I’ve seen this new Congress do this year,” House Minority Leader Jim Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
One of the Bush administration’s fears is that the resolution could weaken U.S. influence as it urges Turkey to refrain from any major military operations in Northern Iraq.
The Turkish government is planning to seek parliamentary approval for military operations against a militant group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, based in the mountains of northern Iraq.
Additional reporting by Caren Bohan in Crawford, Texas