Turkey enraged after US House votes to recognise Armenian genocide

Turkey summoned the US ambassador on Wednesday in protest at votes in Congress to recognise the Turkish genocide against Armenians and to sanction Ankara for its military offensive in northeast Syria. 

Turkey was outraged at the pair of votes in the House of Representatives and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, called the American accusations “worthless” and the “biggest insult” to the Turkish people.  

The votes come at a low point in US-Turkish relations. Mr Erdoğan is due to visit the White House to meet Donald Trump in two weeks’ time but it is unclear whether the visit will go ahead. 

While Mr Trump continues to insist the country is a close American ally, members of Congress are intent on punishing Turkey for its actions in Syria. There is also widespread anger in Turkey over US support for Kurdish fighters who most Turks see as terrorists.

Meanwhile, it emerged that a Kurdish-recruited spy who helped the US track down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be in line for the $25 million (£19.4 million) bounty the American government placed on the Islamic State leader’s head.  

David Satterfield, the new US ambassador, was summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry on so officials could lodge a formal protest against the votes which passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday night in Washington. 

The first vote – which passed the House with 403 votes to 16 – would block the sale of weapons to Turkey for use in Syria and impose sanctions on a number of senior Turkish officials. Republicans defied Mr Trump to vote for the measure.

The Republican-controlled Senate looks unlikely to take up the bill, meaning it may never be enacted. 

The second vote formally recognised the Ottoman Turks of committing a genocide against the Armenians from 1915-1923. 

Around a million Armenians are estimated to have been killed in the mass slaughter. Turkey strongly refutes that its forebears committed genocide and says the real death toll is closer to 300,000. 

“This step which was taken is worthless and we do not recognise it,” Mr Erdoğan said. “We consider such an accusation to be the biggest insult to our people.”

Ilhan Omar, the Muslim-American congresswoman frequently targeted by Mr Trump for racist attacks, was the only Democrat to vote against the sanctions on Turkey. She also abstained on the genocide vote, which was supported by 97 per cent of House members. 

In a statement, she said the sanctions were “overbroad” and would “hurt civilians rather than political leaders”. She also said the question of genocide “should not be used as a cudgel in a political fight”. 

“A true acknowledgement of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide,” she said. 

Ms Omar met with Mr Erdoğan in 2017 before she was elected to Congress. 

It emerged this week that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) cultivated a source inside Baghdadi’s inner circle, who was able to steal the Isil leader’s underwear for DNA sampling and give US commandos a detailed layout out of his compound in northwest Syria. 

The spy, who has not been identified, was whisked out of Syria and is now in line to receive some or all of the $25 million reward that the US offered for information leading to Baghdadi’s death or capture. 

Mr Erdoğan said his forces had begun joint patrols in northern Syria with Russian forces to enforce a ceasefire agreement he struck with Vladimir Putin last week. 

Russia insists that Kurdish forces have withdrawn from the border in line with the agreement but Mr Erdoğan said he was sceptical and was prepared to order a fresh assault on the SDF. 

"If we see that the members of the terrorist organisation have not been moved out of the 30 km, or if attacks continue, no matter from where, we reserve our right to carry out our own operation," he said.

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