babacan yad vashem 224.8.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The widespread perception in Turkey is that US Jewish organizations have linked up with Armenian groups to "defame" and "condemn" Turkey, visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told The Jerusalem Post Monday.
He warned that if a measure characterizing the killing of Armenians during World War I as an act of genocide passed the US Congress in the coming days, it would not only harm Turkey's ties with the US, but also Ankara's ties with Jerusalem.
"All of a sudden the perception in Turkey right now is that the Jewish people, or the Jewish organizations let's say, and the Armenian Diaspora, the Armenian lobbies, are now hand-in-hand trying to defame Turkey, and trying to condemn Turkey and the Turkish people," Babacan said. "This is the unfortunate perception right now in Turkey. So if something goes wrong in Washington, DC, it inevitably will have some influence on relations between Turkey and the US, plus the relations between Turkey and Israel as well."
During the interview, Babacan - who arrived in Israel Sunday from Damascus for a two-day visit - diplomatically deflected whether he was satisfied with Israeli explanations of its bombing raid on Syria, and also backtracked from statements he made Sunday that Syria was playing a constructive role in the region.
He also intimated that he discussed during talks Monday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak Sunday's killing of 13 soldiers in Turkey, and reports that Turkey was considering military action against the PKK in northern Iraq.
"In terms of terrorism, Turkey has been under this terrorist threat for a while, and Iraq is a training ground of this terror organization," Babacan said. "I think Israel is a country that could understand how it feels when terrorists kill people."
Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's political-military bureau, took part in Babacan's meeting with Barak.
Babacan said Ankara expected the US administration, the Iraqi government and the administration in northern Iraq to take action against the PKK operating from northern Iraq.
"We have been and are willing to cooperate more with the parties," he said. "We have been quite patient, but patience has a limit."
As to whether he expected any Israeli assistance in this matter, Babacan said, "Like in any regional issues, if there is any help that the Israeli government can offer in this specific issue, we are very happy to receive it."
Babacan would not say whether he asked, or Israel offered, any assistance.
"We had many, many topics to discuss during my visit," he said. "We had long agenda in hand, and I was happy to cover all these issues during my visit here."
One of the main agenda items was the proposed US congressional resolution branding the killing of Armenians "genocide." Babacan said Turkey "would be happy if the Israeli authorities" could use their leverage in Washington "so that nothing goes wrong over there."
He did not spell out what specifically he expected from Israel, other than to say, "What we have done is told them the problems, and it is up to them to decide what to do and how to help the situation."
Diplomatic officials said Israel officials in recent days have been in contact with key US congressional officials regarding the issue, and briefing them on possible ramifications of the resolution on Turkish-Israeli ties.
Babacan did not answer directly whether he believed the American Jewish organizations were in cooperation with the Armenian organizations to defame Turkey. But, in reference to the Anti-Defamation League's recently well-publicized reversal on the matter, he said, "If we see that, that Jewish organizations are deliberately and in a very comfortable way using the word genocide in a statement, this is a problem for us. This offends Turkey."
In August, the ADL - in a dramatic reversal of policy - said Turkey's actions against Armenians "were tantamount to genocide."
Asked whether he felt Israel could control the US Jewish organizations, Babacan replied, "It is difficult to tell the exact relationships, what kind of influence will work out. But we believe there are ways that could be tried."
Regarding Syria, Babacan - who met with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Sunday, and that same day during a press conference with President Shimon Peres said he felt Syria and Assad were playing a constructive role in the region - toned down his comments.
Asked what he had in mind, considering Assad's support for Hamas, Hizbullah and possible nuclear connection with North Korea, Babacan corrected any wrong impressions his words may have created.
"I was just expressing my feeling that there is a hope for Syria to play a more constructive role in the region, and be part of the solutions, not part of the problems," he said.
"The way they are opening up politically and economically over the last few years is something positive and something to make use of, to benefit from," he added. "If the understanding [of what I said] was beyond that, I didn't mean [it]. That is what I meant, nothing else."
Babacan also raised eyebrows at that press conference by saying - regarding the IAF's raid on Syria and the fuel tanks allegedly dropped in Turkey by IAF warplanes - he expected an "explanation of what happened, and why it happened."
Asked whether he received those explanations and was satisfied with them, he said, "All the agenda items I had in my folder I was able to talk about with my counterparts." He also did not answer directly whether Turkey would continue allowing IAF maneuvers in Turkish airspace, as has been the practice in the past.
In reply to this question, Babacan - referring to military, industrial and economic cooperation - said, "Turkey and Israel are two partner countries in many fields," adding that "relations in all of these avenues move only forward, not backward."
Babacan met with Olmert, Barak and Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday, and then went to Ramallah, where he met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki.
He is scheduled to meet with PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad on Tuesday, before leaving for a one-day visit to Jordan.
Babacan said he did not carry any message from Damascus to Jerusalem, and that the Syria-Israel sequence of his visit was the result of logistical reasons, not because Turkey was conducting shuttle diplomacy between the two countries.