Turkish FM calls US recognition of World War I genocide matter of "honor."
By ASSOCIATED PRESSPublished: MARCH 5, 2010 01:13Advertisement
Turkey warned the Obama administration on Friday of negative diplomaticconsequences if it fails to impede a US resolution branding the WorldWar I-era killing of Armenians as genocide.Turkish Foreign Minister AhmetDavutoglu said his country, a key Muslim ally of the US, would assess whatmeasures it would take, adding that the issue was a matter of "honor"for Ankara.A US congressional committee approved themeasure Thursday. The 23-22 vote sends the measure to the full House ofRepresentatives, where prospects for passage are uncertain. Minutesafter the vote, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to the USHistoriansestimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turksaround the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars asthe first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deathsconstituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and thosekilled were victims of civil war and unrest.US President Barack Obama had objected to the resolution, but Turkey wants stronger action to block the resolution."Weexpect the US administration to, as of now, display more effectiveefforts. Otherwise the picture ahead will not be a positive one,"Davutoglu told reporters. He complained of a lack of "strategic vision"in Washington.Davutoglu said the Obama administration had notput sufficient weight behind efforts to block the vote and called onWashington to do more to prevent the measure from now going to the fullHouse.The measure was approved at a time when Washington isexpected to press Turkey to back sanctions against Iran to be approvedin the UN Security Council, where Turkey currently holds a rotating seat.Turkish cooperation is also important to US operations in Iraq andAfghanistan.Also at stake are defense contracts. Turkey is animportant market for US defense companies, many of which had lobbiedagainst the measure.Davutoglu said the US ambassador in Turkey had beencalled to the country's Foreign Ministry for talks. The ambassador, JamesJeffrey, told reporters Friday: "We oppose the resolution."Theforeign minister said Turkey was determined to press ahead with effortsto normalize ties with Armenia, but said Turkey would not be"pressured" into doing so.He added that the vote had put the ratification of agreements to normalize ties with Armenia into jeopardy.Lastyear, Turkey and Armenia agreed to normalize ties by establishingdiplomatic relations and reopen their shared border, but the agreementshave yet to be approved by their parliaments.Turkey has been dragging its feet, fearful of upsetting allyAzerbaijan, which balks at any suggestion of the reopening of theborder until its own dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh issettled. The region in Azerbaijan has been under Armenian control.Armenian-Americangroups have sought congressional affirmation of the killings asgenocide for decades and welcomed Thursday's vote.The vote alsocame at a time when relations with the United States — strained byTurkey's refusal to allow its territory to be used for the invasion ofIraq — had recently improved. Turkey was the first Muslim country Obamavisited after taking office.
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