- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Trump administration isn’t signing on to recent House and Senate moves officially characterizing the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as a “genocide.”

Turkey has long rejected the genocide accusation and threatened harsh sanctions against nations who adopt it. Armenian-American groups have long pressed for the recognition.

In a short statement released Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the position of the administration hasn’t changed since April 24, 2019, when President Trump recognized Armenian Remembrance Day. While his statement called the massacre and expulsion of 1.5 million ethic Armenians “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century,” it did not specifically refer to it as a genocide.

The passage of the resolution reflected deepening anger at Ankara on Capitol Hill, fueled in part by Turkey’s recent incursion into northern Syria targeting U.S.-allied Kurdish militia forces and Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian-made missile defense system.

The congressional resolution on the genocide question — known to Armenians as “Meds Yeghern” — and other possible sanctions have prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to threaten to close the strategic Incirlik Air Base, a key base of operations for the Pentagon in the Middle East where up to 50 U.S. nuclear bombs are believed to be stored.

Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper said he wasn’t aware of the Turkish president’s threats to shutter Incirlik.

“It’s not been brought up to me before. It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” he told reporters.

Mr. Esper said it would be necessary to consult with his defense counterparts in Ankara to gauge the seriousness of the base-closing threats.

“This is something that the [NATO] alliance would have to discuss,” Mr. Esper said. “They’re a sovereign nation to begin with so, you know, they have that inherent right to house or to not house NATO bases or foreign troops.”

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