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US panel: Armenia killings genocide
House committee votes to label First World War killings by Turks as genocide.
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2010 21:49 GMT
 Turkey says that the Armenian death toll has been inflated [EPA]

A US congressional panel has approved a resolution declaring the killing of Armenians by Turkish forces during the First World War as genocide.

Legislators in the Foreign Affairs Committee passed the non-binding measure in a 23-22 vote on Thursday, enabling the resolution to be sent to the full House of Representatives for approval.

The measure calls on the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, to ensure US policy formally refers to the killings as genocide.

Minutes after the vote, Turkey announced it had recalled its ambassador from the US for consultations.

"We condemn this resolution which accuses the Turkish nation of a crime it has not committed," the Turkish government said in a statement.

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

Turkey had sought to put pressure on Washington ahead of Thursday's vote, saying that its adoption would damage strategic ties between the two countries.

Turkish pressure

The committee approved a similar measure in 2007, but it was not brought to the House floor for a vote following intensive pressure by George Bush, the former US president.

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds, reporting from Washington, said the vote could complicate relations because Turkey is an important country to the United States.

"After this, the anti-American feelings in Turkey will increase, the Turkish nationalism will also get strengthened"

Huseyin Bagci, political analyst in Ankara

"First of all, it's a highway through which the US supplies it's troops in Iraq.

"For another, it's been involved often as a broker for Middle East peace agreements and of course it's a Nato ally and it has troops in the US-led Nato coalition in Afghanistan."

Abdullah Gul, the country's president, was reported to have phoned Obama late on Wednesday to discuss the matter.

Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper said Gul had urged the US leader to use his influence to block the resolution.

Huseyin Bagci, a political analyst in Ankara, told Al Jazeera that the decision would have implications on Turkey's domestic and foreign policies.

"President Obama, if he's going to speak the word genocide on April 24, then probably Turkish-American relations will go into a very difficult phase," he said, referring to the date recognised worldwide by many Armenians as Genocide Awareness Day.

"After this, the anti-American feelings in Turkey will increase, the Turkish nationalism will also get strengthened and the government is going to face certain reactions inside domestic politics."

Diplomatic relations

Armenian-US groups have for decades sought congressional affirmation of the killings as genocide.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of the First World War, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and that many of those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

After decades of hostility, Turkey and Armenia signed a deal in October to establish diplomatic relations and open their border.

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

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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