The US House of Representatives adopted a resolution to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide in a symbolic but unprecedented move that angered Turkey amid already strained relations between the two countries.
Applause and shouting, when the House voted 405 to 11, passed a resolution confirming US recognition of the "Armenian genocide" in a precedent in Congress, where similar texts had been put forward for decades in a direct tone, but not passed.
The US lawmakers, after their decision, dealt a second blow to Ankara by adopting a law imposing sanctions on Turkey for its military operation against the Kurds in northeastern Syria.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was honored to join her colleagues in "commemorating one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century: the systematic killing of more than 1.5 million Armenians, men, women and children by the Ottoman Empire."
The Armenians consider the mass murder, which they suffered between 1915 and 1917, was a campaign of "genocide", and this is recognized by only 30 countries.
Turkey strongly denies charges of genocide, says Armenians and Turks were killed as a result of World War I, and Ankara estimates the death toll in the hundreds.
Ankara reacted swiftly, as Ankara refused to recognize the House of Representatives, considering it «a political move meaningless». It warned that it could harm relations between the two countries "at a very sensitive time" for international and regional security.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement: "We believe that American friends of Turkey, who support the continuation of the alliance and friendly relations, will be held accountable for this terrible mistake, and will try the conscience of the American people responsible" for the decision.
Armenian Prime Minister Nicole Pashyanian praised the US House of Representatives decision, saying it was a "bold step towards serving truth and historical justice, relieving millions of descendants of Armenian genocide survivors."
In 2017, the new US president, Donald Trump, criticized the killings of Armenians as "one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century." But in keeping with US policy for a long time, he did not use the word "genocide."
Before his election in 2008, former US President Barack Obama pledged to recognize the Armenian genocide, but failed to deliver on his promise during his two terms in office.
Pelosi, in bold comments Tuesday in the House of Representatives, that the fact of "brutal crime" has been denied most of the time.
"Today, let us clearly state the facts in this House, to be etched forever in the Congressional record: the barbarism committed against the Armenian people was genocide," she said.
The House of Representatives also adopted a resolution by Democratic and Republican lawmakers that would impose sanctions on senior Turkish officials involved in the attack on northern Syria, and a Turkish bank with ties to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The text also asks the Trump administration to punish Turkey for buying a Russian-made missile defense system.
The decision comes three weeks after the start of the Turkish military operation against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, after the withdrawal of US forces from this region.
A similar sanctions bill has been introduced in the Senate, but no vote has yet been taken.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the decision of the House of Representatives to approve the sanctions, stressing that "is not in line with the spirit of relations" between the two NATO allies (NATO), and contrary to the agreement reached by Ankara with Washington on Syria.
The Trump administration imposed more modest sanctions on Turkey for its military operation before lifting them when it negotiated a ceasefire with Ankara.
Former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden welcomed the vote. "By recognizing this genocide, we honor the memory of its victims," he wrote on his Twitter account. "We pledge: This will not happen again."
Outside the political spectrum, the Armenian-American reality TV star, Kim Kardashian, welcomed the vote and reported the news to her 62 million social media followers. "It concerns me personally, and it means millions of Armenians who come from genocide survivors," she said.
There are between 500,000 and 1.5 million Americans of Armenian origin, according to unofficial estimates.