Turkey Warns US Genocide Vote Will Harm Relations

By a margin of one vote, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a non-binding resolution calling the World War I-era killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks a "genocide." The fallout continues between the U.S. and Turkey, one of America's key allies. Daljit Dhaliwal interviews Bulent Aliriza.

ANKARA — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Saturday slammed as "parody" a US Congress panel's reference to Ottoman-era massacres of Armenians as genocide and warned it would harm relations.


Thursday's approval of the resolution at the US House Foreign Affairs Committee was the product of "erroneous policies" and "will not bind us," Erdogan said in televised remarks.

Turkey will "not be deterred by such a comedy, a parody, a fait accompli," he said in a speech to a business group in Istanbul.

"Let me say quite clearly that this resolution will not harm us. But it will damage bilateral relations between countries, their interests and their visions for the future. We will not be the losers," he added.

An infuriated Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States for consultations after the committee narrowly approved the text on Thursday, opening the door for a vote at the full House of Representatives.

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

Ankara also warned Washington that it risked damaging bilateral ties and setting back the already limping Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process if it did not block the bill from advancing to a full vote.


Following US-backed talks to end decades of hostility, Turkey and Armenia signed a deal in October to establish diplomatic relations and open their border.

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

In a bid to limit the fallout of the committee's decision, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that the Obama administration would "work very hard" to stop the resolution from going before the full house.

Turkey's ambassador to Washingon, Namik Tan, arrived back in Turkey on Saturday, the Anatolia news agency reported, as Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said no one should expect the envoy to return to his post soon.

Tan's return "could take a long time. Ties between the two countries cover a lot of ground," Davutoglu said in comments published in the mass-circulation Hurriyet daily on Saturday.

Turkish newspapers suggested that Ankara was working on a plan of measures, including minimizing bilateral contacts and reviewing economic cooperation and arms contracts, in a bid to keep up the pressure on the Obama administration.


Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were systematically killed during World War I as the Ottoman Empire fell apart.

Turkey categorically rejects the genocide label and says the number of those killed in what was civil strife during wartime is grossly inflated.

Washington has traditionally condemned the killings, but refrained from calling them a "genocide," anxious not to strain relations with Turkey.

During a visit to Turkey in April, Obama said he retained his view that the killings amounted to genocide but stressed that reconciliation between the two neighbours was more important.

Source: AFP