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Turkey rallies condemn US vote
Ambassador recalled after resolution on killing of Armenians is pased by US panel.
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2010 08:26 GMT
 Turkey says the often cited Armenian death toll of 1.5 million is inflated and was due to a civil war [EPA]

A resolution by a US congressional committee branding the killing of Armenians during World War I as "genocide" has triggered protests in Turkey.

Protesters on Friday marched in front of the US embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital, chanting "God damn American imperialism".

"This is another game of the United States of America. Turkey never committed genocide but we defend our land," the Associated Press news agency quoted one protester as saying.

Turkey recalled its ambassador to the US and condemned Washington's move to declare the killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces in the first world war a "genocide".

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

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

Diplomatic fallout

The announcement came minutes after the US House of Representatives' foreign affairs committee passed a non-binding measure in a 23-22 vote on Thursday, calling on the administration to ensure US policy formally refers to the 1915 mass killings of Armenians as genocide.

There are fears the resolution, if adopted, could damage Turkey's peace efforts with Armenia.

But Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said the resolution would not be adopted.

Rob Reynolds reports on the 'genocide' row

"I, Hillary Clinton, along with our President Barack Obama, we mentioned very obviously that this decision by the Congressional Committee of House of the Representatives is inappropriate," she said.

"We are against this decision. Now we believe that the US congress will not take any decision on this subject."

The vote, which enables the resolution to be sent to the full House for approval, came despite pressure from the White House and Turkey, a long-time Nato ally.

Suat Kinik-lioglu, a member of parliament from Turkey's ruling Justice and Development party, told Al Jazeera that the vote was "very untimely".

He said it was not for foreign legislators to judge on the "very complicated history of World War I", especially "when this country is a strong ally, works closely with the US and there is an ongoing reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia".

"Turkey works very closely with the US on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, global terrorism, Middle East peace process, Syria-Israel talks," Kinik-lioglu said.

'High sensitivity'

Saying he did not see the recalling of Turkey's ambassador to the US as merely a symbolic gesture in a drama that would soon blow over, Kinik-lioglu said: "This is being watched very carefully, there is high sensitivity towards this. Turks feel badly treated by only seeing one version of the events of 1915.

"I think the Americans would feel that same if we were to pass a resolution in our parliament talking about the treatment of [native] Indians in this country."

in depth

 

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Ankara said the outcome of the US panel's vote demonstrated "a lack of strategic vision" among US legislators at a time when Turkey and the US "are working together on a broad common agenda".

Abdullah Gul, Turkey's president, said the resolution had "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's Hurriyet newspaper said Gul had urged his US counterpart to use his influence to block the resolution.

Al Jazeera's senior Washington correspondent, Rob Reynolds, said Thursday's vote could complicate relations between the US and Turkey because Ankara is an important ally.

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

Political implications

Huseyin Bagci, a political analyst in Ankara, told Al Jazeera that the US 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 by many Armenians across the world 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."

In 2007, Ankara recalled its envoy from Washington in 2007 when the same committee passed a similar genocide resolution.

But George Bush, the then US president, stopped the resolution from going to the full House, wary that Ankara would block US access to a Turkish air base essential to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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