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US House recognises mass killings of Armenians as 'genocide', backs Turkey sanctions

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FILE PHOTO: A ceremony commemorating the 104th anniversary of the massacre of 1.5 million of Armenians by Ottoman forces in 1915 is held in Yerevan,  April 24, 2019,
FILE PHOTO: A ceremony commemorating the 104th anniversary of the massacre of 1.5 million of Armenians by Ottoman forces in 1915 is held in Yerevan, April 24, 2019, -
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KAREN MINASYAN / AFP
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The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday in favour of a resolution recognising the mass killings of Armenians a century ago as a genocide, a symbolic but historic vote likely to inflame tensions with Turkey.

The Democratic-controlled House voted 405-11 in favour of the resolution, which asserts that it is US policy to commemorate as genocide the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923.

The Ottoman Empire was centred in present-day Turkey.

The vote marked the first time in 35 years that such legislation was considered in the full House of Representatives, underscoring widespread frustration in Congress with the Turkish government, from both Democrats and President Donald Trump's fellow Republicans.

Shortly after the Armenian genocide vote, lawmakers also overwhelmingly backed legislation calling on Trump to impose sanctions on Turkey over its offensive in northern Syria.

In a statement, Turkey's Foreign Ministry said the move was not fitting of the October 17 truce deal agreed between Ankara and Washington to pause the Turkish offensive. It called on the US administration to take measures to avoid steps that will further damage bilateral ties.

Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.

For decades, measures on this matter have stalled in Congress, stymied by concerns that it could complicate relations with NATO ally Turkey.

US lawmakers have been fuming about Turkey, however, in recent months, because of its purchase of a Russian missile defence system in defiance of US sanctions and, more recently, its incursion into northern Syria to fight Kurdish forces after Trump abruptly announced he was withdrawing US troops from the area.

Turkey views the Kurds in northern Syria as a security threat. Many members of Congress were furious about the assault against Kurdish troops, who until recently were fighting alongside US forces against Islamic State militants.

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