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Demonstrators rally outside the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles, California in April 2018.
Demonstrators rally outside the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles, California in April 2018.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a resolution that describes the killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century as genocide, a move hailed by Armenia but labeled as "worthless" by Turkey.

The House passed the nonbinding resolution on October 29 by a vote of 405 to 11. The vote comes amid tense relations between Washington and Turkey, the successor of the Ottoman Empire, over its recent military incursion against U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia forces in northeastern Syria.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian welcomed the resolution, calling it "a bold step towards serving truth and historical justice." In a series of tweets, Pashinian said the move "offers comfort to millions of descendants of the Armenian Genocide survivors" and praised the efforts of Armenian-Americans, "whose selfless activism and perseverance were the driving force and the inspiration behind today’s historic vote."

Armenians React To U.S. Genocide Resolution
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In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the House resolution as "worthless" and the "biggest insult" to the Turkish people.

"From here I am addressing U.S. public opinion and the entire world: this step which was taken is worthless and we do not recognize it," Erdogan said in a televised speech on October 30.

During and immediately after World War I, Ottoman Turks killed or deported as many as 1.5 million Armenians -- a Christian minority in the predominately Muslim empire. Many historians and some other nations consider the killings genocide.

U.S. House Passes Resolution Recognizing Armenian Genocide
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Turkey, a NATO member, objects to the use of the word genocide to describe the killings. Ankara claims the deaths were a result of civil strife rather than a planned Ottoman government effort to annihilate Armenians. Turkey also claims fewer Armenians died than has been reported.

Aram S. Hamparian, executive director of the Washington-based Armenian National Committee of America, called the adoption of the resolution an “absolute rejection” of Ankara’s claims.

“Turkey knows that unless the U.S. is complicit in their denial, it is not sustainable,” Hamparian told RFE/RL.

The resolution was introduced by Representative Adam Schiff. He is a Democrat from the state of California, which has a large ethnic-Armenian population. The Senate has yet to vote on the resolution.

Turkey's Reaction

Turkey warned that the House resolution risks harming ties "at an extremely fragile time" for international and regional security.

On October 30, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara summoned the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, to file a formal complaint about the House resolution.

The ministry said the resolution “lacks any historical or legal basis."

"As a meaningless political step, its sole addressees are the Armenian lobby and anti-Turkey groups," the Foreign Ministry said.

Separately, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized the resolution, calling it "revenge" for Turkey's military incursion into territory that had been controlled by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.

Turkish forces on October 9 attacked Syrian Kurdish militia in northeastern Syria, pushing them back from the border, after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the embattled country three days earlier.

Washington immediately condemned Ankara's military assault.

Following passage of the resolution describing the Ottoman-era killings of Armenians as an act of genocide, the House also voted 403 to 16 for economic sanctions against Turkey in response to its incursion into northeastern Syria.

Backed by both the Democrats and Republicans, that legislation calls for Trump to impose sanctions against Ankara.

With reporting by Reuters
Bosnian journalist Avdo Avdic (file photo)
Bosnian journalist Avdo Avdic (file photo)

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina to investigate threats made against journalist Avdo Avdic, who has written about cases of alleged money laundering and international drug cartels.

"These threats made against journalist Avdo Avdic are extremely chilling, and authorities must take them seriously," Gulnoza Said, the New York-based group's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said on October 29.

"Threatening a reporter because of his coverage is completely unacceptable, and Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities must take every possible measure to ensure the safety of Avdic and his family," she added.

CPJ said Avdic, a reporter for the investigative website Zurnal, received a threatening video after he reported about alleged links between Sarajevo businessmen and drug trafficking.

The video, which CPJ says it has reviewed, featured a man who Avdic has alleged in his reporting to be connected with a drug cartel.

CPJ said the man threatened in the video that an unnamed journalist "will be searched for in the canals," and also "makes an obscene reference to the journalist's children."

Avdic claims the man messaged him directly on October 23, confirming he was the unnamed journalist in his video, CPJ said.

CPJ said it repeatedly tried to contact the man it identified in the video but received no answer.

On October 25, a representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation In Europe (OSCE) also condemned the threats against Avdic.

"It is of utmost importance that the relevant authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina investigate this case without any delay," said Harlem Desir, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media.

"Journalists must be able to do their investigative work without fearing for their lives. Those who utter such threats must face the harshest justice. This is necessary to protect the safety of journalists," the OSCE representative added.

With reporting by The Sarajevo Times and N1

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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