05/03/2010 Turkey has recalled its ambassador after US lawmakers voted to brand as “genocide” the killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces during World War I. Despite strong opposition from Turkey and the White House, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the symbolic resolution on Thursday, albeit by the slimmest 23-22 margin, and set the stage for a full vote in the House of Representatives.
The Turkish government, which had sent its own lawmakers to Washington to lobby US congressmen and warned of serious repercussions over the vote, responded by recalling ambassador Namik Tan to Ankara for consultations. “We condemn this resolution which accuses the Turkish nation of a crime it has not committed,” it said in a statement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged Washington to block the resolution. “We expect the US administration to make more efficient efforts from now on” to stop the resolution from advancing to a vote at the full House of Representatives, he said, adding that Ankara was “seriously disturbed” by Thursday’s vote.
President Abdullah Gul also expressed his anger, saying the resolution had “no value in the eyes of the Turkish people” and warning it would deal a blow to 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 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.
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. Turkey argues 300,000 to 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.
However, Armenia hailed the vote calling it an important step forward for human rights. “We highly appreciate the decision,” Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said in a statement. “This is another proof of the devotion of the American people to universal human values and is an important step toward the prevention of crimes against humanity.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had urged the committee not to press ahead with the vote for fear it might harm reconciliation moves between Armenia and Turkey and said she hoped the bid would progress no further. “We do not believe the full Congress will or should act on that resolution,” Clinton told reporters in Costa Rica.
Following bridge-building talks, Turkey and Armenia signed a deal in October to establish diplomatic relations and open their border.
Obama pledged during his campaign that he would recognize the events as genocide, but disappointed Armenian-American supporters when he refrained from using the term in his message last year to commemorate the killings. “The circumstances have changed in very significant ways,” Clinton said, explaining that it became clear after the administration took office that the reconciliation process was a “very worthy one that we intended to support. “I do not think it is for any other country to determine how two countries resolve matters between them to the extent that actions that the United States might take could disrupt this process.”
River to Sea