A US resolution that would have officially described atrocities against Armenians in 1915 as genocide has stopped dead in its tracks on Wednesday, following a meeting between the Turkish president and a senator.
According to foreign reports, senators Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez, both critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came up against each other on the Senate floor over the controversial resolution that overwhelmingly passed the House last month.
Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, asked for unanimous consent to pass the resolution that would have provided “official recognition and remembrance of the Armenian genocide.”
But Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, objected to passing the resolution, saying senators shouldn’t “sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it.”
The Republic senator, who used strong language in the past against Erdogan’s policies in Turkey, indicated he would be blocking the bill, objecting “not because of the past but because of the future.”
‘I just met with President Erdogan and President Trump… I do hope that Turkey and Armenia can come together and deal with this problem’
It later turned out, according to The Hill, that Graham had met Erdogan hours earlier during a White House function where the Turkish President and US President Donald Trump met with a group of Republican senators.
“I just met with President Erdogan and President Trump about the problems we face in Syria by the military incursion by Turkey. I do hope that Turkey and Armenia can come together and deal with this problem,” Graham told his colleagues.
The resolution passed the House of Representatives in a 405-11 vote, with Menendez pleading with his colleagues that US foreign policy ought to reflect an honest understanding of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.
“We cannot turn our backs on the Armenian victims of genocide,” he said.
Menendez, who has often sided with South Cyprus and other countries against Turkey, had called on Trump days earlier not to meet with Erdogan at the White House until the Turkish president would commit to upholding democratic values.
Political activists and commentators took to social media to criticize Graham, with one of them asking “what is wrong with this man” and another writing “When is genocide, not a genocide? When @LindseyGrahamSC meets with Turkey.”
Graham, who is considered a Trump ally, has recently spoken against the president following the decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria.
Turkey does not recognize the killing of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, with Erdogan saying his country has opened its archives and called on Armenia and others to do the same.
Ankara says the deaths of Armenians in 1915 in eastern Anatolia took place in the middle of the conflict as some of them sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces.
Armenians mark 24 April 1915 as the start of what they regard as genocide and have long been accusing Turkey of crimes against humanity by not recognizing what took place a century ago.