Turkey recalls ambassador to US

Move comes after US House committee labels Ottoman-era Armenian killings genocide.

    Armenia's president said Ankara should not bully countries into not recognising the genocide [AFP] 
    'Limited response'
     
    Ankara said a full vote would jeopardise a strategic partnership with an ally and friend and would be an "irresponsible attitude".

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    A senior Turkish diplomat told Reuters that Ankara's recall of its ambassador was not permanent, while a US state department official called it a "fairly limited response".
     
    Washington expressed hope for the quick return of the ambassador.
     
    Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said: "We look forward to his quick return and will continue to work to maintain strong US-Turkish relations.
     
    "We remain opposed to House Resolution 106 because of the grave harm it could bring to the national security of the United States."
     
    Barnaby Phillips, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Istanbul, reported nationalist anger was mounting as demonstrations were held in Turkey against the vote. 
     
    With regard to the ambassador's recall, Phillips said: "This is the kind of action we would have expected... clearly the Turks are showing they are upset.
     
    "Relations between Turkey and the US have been on a downward spiral for many months now."
     
    Turkey crucial
     
    Earlier on Thursday, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, had warned of reprisals from Turkey following the vote.
     
    Related story


    US panel calls Armenian mass killings genocide

    He said Turkey was crucial to US supply lines into Iraq, with 70 per cent of US air cargo, 30 per cent of fuel shipments to US forces, and 95 per cent of new mine-resistant armoured protected vehicles going through Turkey.
     
    He said: "The Turks have been quite clear about some of the measures they would have to take if this resolution passes.
     
    "It's worth noting that the French parliament passed a similar resolution, and there were a number of steps taken by the Turkish government to punish, if you will, the French."
     
    Armenian reaction
     
    Meanwhile, Robert Kocharian, Armenia's president, welcomed the vote.
     
    He said: "We hope this process will lead to a full recognition by the United States of America of the fact of the Armenian genocide."
     
    Kocharian made the remarks on Thursday after talks with Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, in Brussels on Thursday.
     
    Armenian 'genocide'


    Armenians say they suffered discrimination, religious persecution, heavy taxation and armed attacks under Ottoman Turks since 16th century 

    Thousands killed in 1894-1896 during a crackdown on Armenian nationalists

    Armenians claim 1.5m murdered or starved to death when Ottoman Turks deported them to Syria and Mesopotamia deserts from 1915-1917 during WWI

    Turkey says inflated toll due to ethnic clashes, disease and famine

    All ties between Turkey and Armenia severed more than 90 years ago

    He urged Turkey to join Armenia in talks to restore bilateral relations, but said Ankara had no right to bully other nations into refraining from recognising the killings as genocide.
     
    Kocharian said: "All of our foreign contacts around the world demonstrate that there is no disagreement or that there is no doubt anywhere in the world about the events that took place in Turkey in 1915, and there is a consensus regarding those events.
     
    "The fact that Turkey has adopted a position of denial of the genocide doesn't mean it can bind other states to deny historic truths as well."
     
    He said the passing of a resolution by the US congress would have no impact on diplomatic ties between his country and its neighbour, Turkey, which are currently nonexistent, but said he was open to talks with Turkey.
     
    Further, Kocharian said: "We are ready for diplomatic relations without any preconditions and we are ready to start a very wide dialogue with our Turkish partners on all possible issues of Armenian-Turkish relations."
     
    Solana urged Armenia and Turkey to "look to the future and work to build bilateral ties".
     
    'Insulting Turkishness'
     
    In a separate development, a Turkish court has convicted the son and a colleague of Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist who was murdered in January.
     
    Aram Dink and Serkis Seropyan were found guilty of insulting the Turkish identity for an article published last year and each given one-year suspended sentences.
     
    The European Union is urging Turkey to scrap article 301 of the penal code, which forbids "insulting Turkishness", saying it restricts freedom of speech.
     
    Erdal Dogan, the journalists' lawyer, said the men would appeal to a higher court.
     
    The case against Hrant Dink, for calling the killings of Armenians during World War I a genocide, was dropped after his death, but the court continued with the prosecution of the other men.
     
    Dink had already been convicted of the charges and was appealing his case when he was shot dead in Istanbul.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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