GOP senator listens to White House on Armenian genocide measure

National News

FILE – In this April 11, 2019, file photo Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., speaks to reporters after final votes, at the Capitol in Washington. Cramer has blocked a resolution that would recognize the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as genocide. The Republican senator blocked a Senate vote on the resolution on Thursday, Dec. 5. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican senator blocked a resolution Thursday that would recognize the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as genocide.

North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer said he blocked the resolution at the request of the White House. Officials called the timing inappropriate, since President Donald Trump has just returned from a NATO summit in London, where Turkey’s role in the mass killing was discussed by NATO leaders. Turkey is a NATO member.

Cramer, who co-sponsored similar legislation in 2017 when he was in the House, said he agreed to the White House request because the vote was set so close to the NATO summit.

“I support the spirit of this resolution,” Cramer said on the Senate floor. “I suspect 99 of my colleagues do, and at the right time we may pass it. However I do not think this is the right time.”

Cramer is the third GOP senator to block the resolution, which the House passed overwhelmingly in October in what was widely seen as a rebuke to Turkey in the wake of its invasion of northern Syria.

An activist group, the Armenian National Committee of America, tweeted that Cramer’s claim about timing was nonsensical.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed around World War I, and many scholars see it as the 20th century’s first genocide. Turkey disputes the description, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of a civil war.

“It’s been 38,128 days since US Ambassador (to the Ottoman Empire Henry) Morgenthau urgently warned the Secretary of State about the ‘campaign of race extermination’ against the Armenians. So, when’s the right time?” the group tweeted.

Turkey has lobbied for years against the U.S. recognizing the century-old killings of Ottoman Armenians as genocide, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he wouldn’t recognize the resolution.

Instead, Turkey has instead called for a joint committee of historians to investigate the slayings.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said that while Turkey is a NATO ally, “‘allies can speak the truth to each other. We should never be afraid to tell the truth, and alliances grounded in lies are themselves unsustainable.”

There’s no good reason for the administration to object to the resolution, Cruz added, “and the effect of doing so is to deny recognition of this chilling moment of history.”

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