'Turkey didn't seek Israel's help'

Official says this time, Ankara didn't look to J'lem on Armenian genocide vote.

March 5, 2010 11:20
2 minute read.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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In a sign of the level of tension between Israel and Turkey, Ankara this year did not turn to Israel for help in Washington to fight the resolution that passed a House committee Thursday classifying the World War I killing of Armenians as genocide, a diplomatic source said.

In years past Ankara had looked to Israel, and Jewish groups in Washington, to fight the resolution that came up almost every year. The passage of the resolution in the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee has triggered a crisis in Turkish-US ties.

The resolution will now go to the House floor for a vote. A similar resolution passed the House Committee in 2007, but then-President George W. Bush urged Congressional leaders not to table the vote because of concern for US-Turkish relations.

That year Turkey's ambassador to Israel, Namik Tan, who is now Ankara's envoy to the US, told The Jerusalem Post that Turkey expected Israel to "deliver" American Jewish organizations and ensure that the US Congress does not pass a resolution.

In 2007, Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman incurred Turkish wrath when he issued a statement saying that the Turkish actions toward the Armenians from 1915-1918 were "tantamount to genocide."

At the time, Tan said  "Israel should not let the [US] Jewish community change its position. This is our expectation and this is highly important, highly important." Turkey's concern then was that the ADL decision would open the dikes and enable the passage in Congress of the resolution.

One diplomatic official said that this time Ankara did not ask for Israel's assistance in lobbying against the resolution on Capitol Hill, as it has done in years past. 

There could be a number of reasons for this change in policy, the official said. He said Ankara might have believed that its own lobby in Washington could effectively  do the job, or -- because the tension in ties with Jerusalem -- it simply did not want to ask Israel for a favor at this time.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Army Radio on Friday morning, Meretz chairman Haim Oron called on the Knesset to recognize the Armenian genocide.

"It is incumbent upon Israel's Knesset in particular to conduct a thorough debate and reach a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide that occurred nearly 100 years ago," said Oron, warning that "the attempt to deny it and erase it from history is part of a campaign that has consequences for other denials."

Oron, who has attempted twice in the past to push through a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, said he would continue raising the issue until the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks is officially recognized by the Knesset.

Due to the special relationship and close alliance between Israel and Turkey, which has showed signs of breaking down lately, Israel has avoided recognizing the Armenian genocide at all costs, and the government has in the past thwarted all attempts to promote such an official recognition.

JPost.com staff contributed to this report.

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