U.S., Turkey ease strains over Armenian "genocide" bill

13:08, April 03, 2010      

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The United States and Turkey saw their strains over the Armenian "genocide" resolution ease Friday as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a planned trip to Washington for a nuclear summit and the decision to send Turkish ambassador back to the U.S. capital.

The thaw came after a phone talk between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu late Sunday, an attempt to smooth over tensions caused by the adoption of a resolution passed by a U.S. congressional panel last month that recognizes the World War I-era deaths of Armenians under Ottoman rule as "genocide."

In the phone conversation, Clinton assured the White House opposition to the resolution, Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday.

The phone talk was a positive signal, Erdogan told reporters after a meeting in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Friday.

"I hope these positive developments will continue during my visit," he was quoted by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News as saying.

Angry at the resolution, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States Namik Tan immediately and warned such acts could harm bilateral relations and the ongoing normalization process with Armenia.

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic ties and are bogged down in a long-time row over the killings of Armenians during the World War I, which Armenia brands as a genocide. Turkey strongly denies that.

In response to a question whether U.S. President Barack Obama will host a meeting between him and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan during the Washington summit in mid-April, Erdogan said Friday he would hold talks on the sidelines of the summit and hinted at discussions about the Armenian issue.

"The nuclear issue is not the only topic on the agenda. There are many other issues to discuss," he said.

At the coming International Nuclear Security Summit, the U.S. administration is expected to rally up support for new sanctions on Iran. Turkey has called for a diplomatic solution, though, saying previous rounds of sanctions failed to work.

Turkey will be more reluctant to cooperate with the United States in such Middle East hot spots as Afghanistan and Iran if the resolution makes further progress in the U.S. House of Representatives or Barack Obama names the Armenian deaths as genocide, political analyst Sedat Laciner told Xinhua in Ankara.

"The United States should understand that if it needs Turkey, it has to be more polite," said Laciner, director of the International Strategic Research Organization.

He attributed the U.S. House panel's vote for the "genocide" resolution to coming U.S. mid-term elections this fall and strong lobbying from the Armenian diaspora in Washington.

Turkey has argued the Armenians were victims of widespread chaos and governmental breakdown as the Ottoman Empire collapsed before modern Turkey was founded in 1923.

Obama is expected to make a speech about the Armenian issue on April 24, the anniversary of the start of the killings commemorated by Armenians.

In last year's speech, Obama refrained from the word "genocide", referring to the incident as "one of the great atrocities of the 20th century."

How far Washington goes is affected by both lawmakers' attention to Armenian voters and Turkey's strategic importance to the country at the state level, said Mustafa Aydin, director of the International Policy Research Institute of Ankara-based think tank Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey.

A similar resolution supporting Armenia's "genocide" claim was adopted by the same U.S. House panel in 2007 but was not brought to the House floor because of opposition from former President George W. Bush.

Aydin said Turkey's strategic importance to the United States is even more heightened this year as Washington looks to Turkey's support in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.

"So this year I think President Obama will definitely intervene in the level of the congress floor, and I don't think it (the resolution) will come to the voting in fact," he predicted.

He also believed Obama will repeat much of his line in this April's speech and not change his wording of the Armenian deaths to "genocide" "in the next four years."

Source: Xinhua


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