The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to officially recognize the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
The historic vote was 405 to 11 and is seen as a rebuke to Turkey, which has spent nearly a century denying there was a genocide.
Although the U.S. has several times recognized an Armenian genocide through presidential proclamations and House resolutions, this is the first time the full Congress passed a measure making it U.S. policy. It is unclear if the Senate will follow.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu immediately condemned the vote, calling it a “shameful decision of those exploiting history in politics (it is) null and void for our government and people.”
He said the resolution was Congress’ “revenge” for Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria.
Historians say an estimated 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Empire — the predecessor to modern-day Turkey — between 1915 and 1923.
Armenians say they were purposely targeted for extermination through starvation, forced labor, deportation, death marches, and outright massacres.
Turkey denies a genocide or any deliberate plan to wipe out the Armenians. They say many of the victims were casualties of World War I, or murdered by Russians. Turkey also says the number of Armenians killed was far fewer than the usually accepted figure of 1.5 million.
Turkey is a NATO member and a U.S. ally, and the issue is an extremely sensitive one. U.S. presidents have been careful not to publicly use the word genocide when talking about the Armenian deaths, sometimes to their regret.
Former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power told the radio podcast Save the World that several officials in the Obama administration called it a “mistake” not to use the word. “I’m sorry that we disappointed so many Armenian Americans,” she said.
There has been no reaction from the Trump administration.