President Trump and His State Department do not Recognize Armenian Massacre as a Genocide Despite Unanimous United States Senate Approval.

A post created by  Jeremy Kemp, Junior Associate.

On December 17, 2019, Morgan Ortagus, a United States’ State Department Spokeswoman, affirmed President Donald Trump’s position on his refusal to recognize that the Armenian massacre that took place starting in 1915 was a genocide.  This affirmation comes after the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution declaring the Armenian massacres a genocide.[2]  The United States House of Representatives passed a similar resolution in October.[3]  These resolutions had wide support from both major United States political parties.[4]  However, these resolutions are not binding on President Trump.[5]

During the Armenian massacre, most historians agreed that there was a killing of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I by the Ottoman Empire, and many scholars concluded that this massacre constituted a genocide.[6]  Turkey, who is the successor to the Ottoman Empire, has denied that what happened to these Armenians was a genocide due to a lack of a systematic killing and instead said the Armenians died as a part of the civil war at that time.[7]  The Turkish government also contests the number of Armenians killed as a result of this alleged massacre.[8]  Turkey wants “a joint committee of historians to investigate” what caused the happened during this period.[9]  President Trump’s denial of the Armenian genocide is seen as an attempt to appease President Erdogan.[10]

There are a number of reasons for this move by President Trump.  The United States is seen as an important ally of Turkey, since they are both part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (“NATO”).[11]  The United States and NATO has had a contentious alliance with Turkey for the last few years. These points of contention include Turkey purchasing their Missile Defense System from Russia instead of NATO allies.[12]  President Erdogan has criticized the Congressional votes in the United States Congress calling them “worthless”, and the Turkish Foreign Minister criticized the United States of “politicizing history.”[13]  President Erdogan threatened to close the Incirlik Air Base, a United States’ military base which hosts nuclear warheads because of these Congressional resolutions.[14]  This base is noted for its strategic position in NATO’s Southern region and proximity to important international areas.[15]

Previously, President Trump was criticized for his handling of Syria and the Kurds.[16]  These criticism included statements by Congressional Republicans after President Trump allowed Turkey to invade Syria and disrupt the Kurds that settled there.[17]

President Trump and President Erdogan have formed a close relationship between their countries.[18]  This relationship includes President Trump saying that “he was a ‘big fan’ of Mr[.] Erdogan, ignoring widespread criticism over the Turkish president’s poor human rights record.”, among other instances of President Trump’s praises of President Erdogan.[19]  On April 24, during Armenian Remembrance Day, President Trump called the Armenian massacre an ‘atrocity’ as opposed to a ‘genocide’.[20]

[1]  Matthew Leal, After Congress Votes, State Dept. Says White House Policy on Armenian Genocide ‘Has Not Changed’, Time (Dec. 18, 2019).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] See id. (showing that the bill had two sponsors Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Senator Ted Cruz, R-Tex., who are members of opposing political parties.); see contra Trump administration rejects Congress vote on Armenia ‘genocide’, BBC News (Dec. 17, 2019) [Hereinafter BBC Article] (showing that Linsey Graham, a United States Senator and staunch Trump supporter, had previously blocked the Senate resolution declaring the Armenian massacres a genocide.).

[5] BBC Article, supra note 3.

[6] Leal, supra note 1.

[7] Id.; BBC Article, supra note 3.

[8] See BBC Article, supra note 3 (Turkey claimed that the number of deaths from the Armenian massacre is around 300,000.).

[9] Leal, supra note 1.

[10] See id. (finding that the State Department’s position would likely “please Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan….”).

[11] Id.; What is NATO?, NATO https://www.nato.int/nato-welcome/index.html (last visited Dec. 26, 2019).

[12] BBC Article, supra note 3.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Incirlik Air Base Guide, Military.com, https://www.military.com/base-guide/incirlik-air-base (last visited Dec. 26, 2019).

[16] BBC Article, supra note 3.

[17] See The Latest: Senate Republicans stick up for Syrian Kurds, The Associated Press (Oct. 16, 2019), https://apnews.com/9624410de15c4f35b9b68731c7898ba3 (showing that Republican Senators and staunch Trump allies Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Joni Erst, Roy Blunt, and Mitch McConnel have criticized President’s Trump’s decision to allow President Erdogan to attack the Kurds. This article also shows that the house passed a resolution on that date on a bipartisan basis.).

[18] BBC Article, supra note 3.

[19] Id.

[20] Leal, supra note 1.

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