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US votes on Armenian `genocide`; Turkey recalls envoy

Last Updated: Friday, March 5, 2010 - 09:39

Ankara: Turkey recalled its ambassador from the United States and sent a harsh warning that ties will suffer after a US House panel adopted a resolution on Thursday branding the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as "genocide”.
"We condemn this resolution which accuses the Turkish nation of a crime it has not committed," a government statement said.

"Following this development, our ambassador to Washington, Namik Tan, was recalled to Ankara for consultations," it added.

Overriding pressure from the White House and Turkey, a long-time NATO ally, the Foreign Affairs Committee narrowly approved the text, opening the door for a vote at the full House of Representatives.

President Abdullah Gul slammed the resolution as having "no value in the eyes of the Turkish people" and warned that it would deal a blow on fledgling efforts to end decades of hostility between Turkey and Armenia.

"Turkey will not be responsible for the negative ramifications that this vote may have in every field," he stressed.

The outcome of the vote demonstrated "a lack of strategic vision" among US lawmakers at a time when Turkey and the United States "are working together on a broad common agenda," the government`s statement said.

"We are seriously concerned that this bill... will harm Turkish-US relations and impede efforts aimed at normalising Turkish-Armenian ties," it added.

Turkey is a prominent Muslim partner of Washington in efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and Iraq. It is also a key route in major projects to carry oil and natural gas to Western markets.

The non-binding resolution calls on President Barak Obama to ensure that US foreign policy reflects an understanding of the "genocide" and to label the World War I killings as such in his annual statement on the issue.

Ankara also recalled its envoy from Washington in 2007 when the committee passed a similar text.

But then-president George W Bush stopped the resolution from going to the full House, wary over reports that Ankara would block US access to a key air base essential for Iraq and Afghanistan operations.

Ankara renewed its position that the massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, should be studied by historians on the basis of documents and archives, and not judged by politicians.

"The interventions of politicians in the realm of historians has always produced negative effects," it said.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed during World War I by their Ottoman rulers as the empire was falling apart, a claim supported by several other countries.

Turkey argues 300,000-500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in what was a civil strife when Armenians rose up for independence and sided with invading Russian troops.

Following US-backed bridge-building talks, Turkey and Armenia signed a deal in October to establish diplomatic relations and open their border.

But the process has already hit the rocks, with Ankara accusing Yerevan of trying to tweak the terms of the deal and Yerevan charging that Ankara is not committed to ratifying the accord.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, March 5, 2010 - 09:39
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