Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said a senior White House staff member asked him to obstruct a resolution that would have formally recognised as genocide the mass killing of the Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, Axios reported on Monday.
Graham said a White House legislative affairs official urged him to object to Democrat Senator Robert Menendez’s efforts to pass a resolution that would have provided “official recognition and remembrance” of the Armenian genocide during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Washington and he accepted the request.
“The only reason I did it is because he was still in town. … That would’ve been poor timing. I’m trying to salvage the relationship if possible,” Axios quoted Graham as saying during a phone interview.
It was an unexpected development for many since Graham was a harsh critic of Ankara’s incursion into Syria. He had a fierce debate with Erdoğan over the offensive and Turkey’s part in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) during the White House meeting.
Menendez, together with another Republican Senator Ted Cruz, introduced the Armenian genocide resolution again last week. And the White House this time directed another Republican Senator, David Perdue, to block it, according to Axios.
“Senator Perdue objected due to concerns that passage of the resolution would jeopardise the sensitive negotiations going on in the region with Turkey and other allies,” Axios quoted a Perdue spokesperson as saying.
Turkey and the United States have been at loggerheads over several issues, including Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence missile systems and the latter’s support for Syrian Kurdish forces that Turkey sees as terrorists.
The Trump administration is pushing Turkey to give up the Russian-made S-400s. While they are talking with Turkey, they are trying to block Congress from exposing Turkey’s human rights atrocities, Axios said.