Senate backs measure affirming century-old Armenian genocide

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Ranking Member Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the future of U.S. policy towards Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019 in Washington, on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON, DC – Mass killings of more than a million Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago were genocide, the Senate declared Thursday in a vote that prompted angry denunciations by Turkey and accusations that the U.S. was undermining its relations with a key NATO ally.

The Senate action follows a vote by a Senate committee to impose sanctions on Turkey after its offensive in Syria and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system.

The actions were the latest by Congress to push President Donald Trump to take a harder line against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump said last month that Erdogan was “doing a fantastic job for the people of Turkey.''

The Armenian resolution and the sanction bill passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “endanger the future of our bilateral relations," said Fahrettin Altun, a spokesman for Erdogan.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Senate vote “is a shameful example of the politicization of history. However, those who use history for political purposes will never achieve their goals.''

The Armenian resolution had been blocked three times at the request of the White House, but won unanimous approval Thursday on its fourth try.

Co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the nonbinding resolution affirms that the genocide occurred and that Turkey is responsible.

“I say to my friends and colleagues that genocide is genocide,'' Menendez said on the Senate floor. “Senators in this body should have the simple courage to say it plainly, say it clearly and say it without reservation.''