As the 100th anniversary of the 1915 incidents during World War I nears, the U.S. representative for Pennsylvania's 9th congressional district urged congressmen not to take sides in the historical dispute between Turkey and Armenia on the 1915 incidents and not to sign the pro-Armenian legislation.
"I urge you to refrain from cosponsoring a resolution taking sides in a historical dispute concerning events which occurred a hundred years ago on the other side of the world. … I urge you to think twice before signing on the legislation that could cause significant damage to our relations in the region," Representative Bill Shuster said in a letter to the congressmen.
Referring to the pro-Armenian legislation, Shuster said that Congress is being asked to officially sanction the events as the Armenian "genocide" while ignoring the suffering of all other former Ottoman people.
He continued his letter by saying that the U.S. should focus on closing the gap between Turkey and Armenia that has existed for a century and easing the tension between the countries instead of adding fuel to the "1915 events" flames.
Shuster said that adopting the resolution would undermine U.S. interests and cause the U.S. to lose one of its last allies in the region that has collaborated in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham [ISIS] in close cooperation with the anti-ISIS coalition led by the U.S.
"Turkey's geostrategic position between Europe and the Middle East has made the country an important NATO ally and an essential partner for both the United States and European countries in combating extremism in the region. As Lebanon, Syria, Armenia and Iraq continue to deepen their political and economic partnerships with Iran and Russia, the United States' leverage in the region is rapidly diminishing. Adopting the resolution would alienate a close ally and damage U.S. interests," he added.
U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke for the 9th Congressional District of New York and Congressman Lee Zeldin announced that they would not support the pro-Armenian legislation.
The year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of both what Armenia calls genocide and the Battle of Gallipoli in Çanakkale province, which marked a turnaround in favor of the Ottomans during World War I against the Allied Forces.
Relations between Turkey and Armenia have historically been poor, rooted in incidents that took place during World War I. The Armenian diaspora and government describe the 1915 events as "genocide" and have asked for compensation. Turkey says that although Armenians died during forced relocations, many Turks also lost their lives in attacks carried out by Armenian gangs in Anatolia. In April 2014, then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered his condolences for the Armenian deaths that occurred in 1915, a first for a Turkish statesman.