Armenian Genocide Resolution Passes Committee

March 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Armenian-Americans are celebrating Thursday's vote by a Congressional panel to recognize the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The resolution still has a long way to go, but it's already creating a foreign relations nightmare for the White House.

Just minutes after the house foreign affairs committee passed the resolution, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the U.S.

Valley Armenians have seen this all before, but they hope there's reason to believe this time in different.

Fresno's Masis Cemetery is the final resting place for hundreds of Armenians who survived a mass slaughter in their homeland.

"There were people burned alive," said Fresno Armenian Hrair Messerlian. "There were people who were bound and thrown in the middle of a river and drowned."

Nestled in the middle of the cemetery is a monument to the hope of the Armenians. A golden eagle is a tribute to the man who fought back against the slaughterers from the Ottoman Empire.

Armenian-Americans now look to Congress for hope.

The House Foreign Affairs committee voted 23-22 to recognize the genocide against Armenians, with one vote coming from Congressman Jim Costa, (D) Fresno.

"Supporters of this resolution are constantly told, and it's been said here today, that this is not the right time," said Rep. Costa. "Well, let me add my voice to those who've also indicated that if this is not the right time, please tell me when the right time will be."

The White House is among those saying now's not the time.

The U.S. needs Turkey as an ally in the war on terror, and a State Department spokesman pointed to a recent cooling of tension between Turkey and Armenia.

"We are concerned the possible action the Congress could take would impede the positive momentum that we see in the Turkey-Armenian process," said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.

But Armenians say the Turks have no intent to admit what their predecessors did, and pulling their ambassador to the U.S. after the vote proves they're not the ally the White House believes.

"Turkey is only getting what it's getting because they're adept at blackmail and at negotiating and at posturing," said Messerlian.

The resolution now goes to the full House.

The same thing happened three years ago, but the House never voted on it.

Armenians still believe Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a friend to their cause, so they're hoping things will change this time around.


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