Washington, 20 October 2000 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. House of Representatives has cancelled a vote on a resolution declaring as genocide the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. The speaker of the lower chamber, Dennis Hastert, said he withdrew the resolution yesterday after President Bill Clinton invoked national security concerns. Clinton had warned that the non-binding resolution, if passed, could damage U.S. ties with NATO ally Turkey and seriously harm other U.S. interests.
Clinton said these interests include the ability to contain Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, advancing peace and stability in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Balkans, and developing Caspian Sea energy resources. Clinton said the question of genocide would best be left to Turkey and Armenia to resolve on their own.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem says Turkey's relations with the United States have been "saved from a grave threat" by the U.S. House of Representative's withdrawal of the resolution accusing the Ottoman Empire of the genocidal killing of Armenians early last century.
Turkish leaders had warned of retaliatory measures over the resolution, including a threat to halt American use of the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey. U.S. warplanes use the base to patrol no-fly zones in Iraq. Turkey, the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, denies the charge of genocide of some 1.5 million Armenians, arguing that both sides suffered heavy casualties in partisan fighting as the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
No response was immediately available from the Armenian side.