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Trump administration refuses to recognise Armenian genocide despite Congress bill

Statement comes days after US Senate passes bill to recognise the killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces as 'genocide'
Turkey admits that Ottoman forces killed Armenians during World War I, but says it does not amount to genocide (AFP/File photo)

US President Donald Trump's administration has stated it will not recognise the killing of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman soldiers during World War I as "genocide".

"The position of the administration has not changed," State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement comes days after the US Senate passed a resolution recognising the killings as "genocide".

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"We have just passed the Armenian genocide recognition resolution - and it is fitting and appropriate that the Senate stands on the right side of history in doing so," Senator Bob Menendez, who proposed the bill, said on the day of the vote.

In late October, the US House of Representatives passed a similar resolution, in a 405 to 11 vote.

The bills marked the first time both chambers of Congress have described the killing of Armenians as genocide. 

The Senate resolution came a day after the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations advanced a bill aiming to impose sanctions on Turkey over its invasion of northern Syria.

Turkey rejected both of the Senate resolutions, calling the moves a "political show" with "no validity whatsoever".

While Turkey acknowledges that Ottoman forces killed Armenians in battles during World War I, it says the killings do not amount to genocide and had occurred amid a civil conflict that saw deaths on both sides.

Ankara has previously condemned countries that recognised the killings as such. 

After the Senate vote, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to recognise the killing of Native Americans in the US as genocide.

"We should oppose [the US] by reciprocating such decisions in parliament. And that is what we will do," Erdogan told Turkey's A Haber news channel.

"Can we speak about America without mentioning [Native Americans]? It is a shameful moment in US history."

The State Department spokeswoman referenced Trump's statement back in April in which he welcomed "the efforts of Armenians and Turks to acknowledge and reckon with their painful history". But the White House did not describe the killings as genocide.

Trump has followed in the precedent set by previous US presidents, who all have refrained from using the term genocide in reference to Ottoman massacres of Armenians, to preserve Washington's alliance with Ankara.

Roughly 30 countries around the world recognise the Armenian genocide. Every state in the US, besides Mississippi, recognises it as well.