Turkey has summoned the U.S. ambassador after lawmakers in Washington voted to recognize Ottoman-era mass killings of Armenians as a genocide and called for sanctions against Ankara.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution recognizing the genocide — which Ankara denies — and passed a bill aiming to impose fresh sanctions on Turkey over its military operation against Syrian Kurdish forces.
In response, the Turkish government on Wednesday morning summoned David Satterfield, the U.S. representative in Ankara, the state news agency Anadolu reported.
The Turkish foreign ministry rejected the genocide recognition as “meaningless” and “devoid of any historical or legal basis” in a statement issued late Tuesday, suggesting that lawmakers had approved the resolution to “take vengeance” against Turkey over its incursion into Syria.
“Undoubtedly, this resolution will negatively affect the image of the U.S. before the public opinion of Turkey as it also brings the dignity of the U.S. House of Representatives into disrepute,” the statement added.
The Armenian genocide — the massacre and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915 — is a sensitive issue in Turkey.
Turkey accepts that many Armenians in the Ottoman Empire died during World War I, but denies that the killings were systematic and firmly rejects the label genocide.
Most modern historians say that the killings do constitute genocide. In the EU, many countries and institutions have recognized the killings as genocide, often prompting outrage from Turkey.
The U.S. resolution comes amid deteriorating ties between Ankara and Washington following disputes over a number of issues, in particular Turkey’s recent Syria offensive.
The Turkish foreign ministry on Tuesday also condemned the U.S. lawmakers’ Syria sanctions bill, which passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 403 to 16. The draft legislation “is incompatible with the spirit of our NATO Alliance,” the ministry said.
To enact the sanctions — which target senior Turkish officials and would restrict weapons sales to Turkey — the bill still needs to pass the Senate and be signed off by President Donald Trump.