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US recognition of Armenian genocide sparks Turkish fury

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-03-05

Turkey recalled its ambassador for consultations after US lawmakers voted to brand the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as "genocide". Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) warned the vote could harm Turkish-US ties.

REUTERS - NATO member Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States for consultations after a vote in a U.S. congressional committee on Thursday branded the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide.

In a statement, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan also said he was seriously concerned that the non-binding resolution would harm Turkish-U.S. ties and efforts by Muslim Turkey and Christian Armenia to bury a century of hostility.

Washington regards Turkey, a Muslim but secular democracy which aspires to join the European Union, as an ally whose help it needs to solve conflicts from Iran to Afghanistan to the Middle East.

What will Turkey do next?

* In 2007, Ankara recalled its ambassador after a U.S. panel approved a similar bill. Turkey reacted angrily, suggesting trade, defence and other ties might be affected. Then-president George W. Bush warned against passage, and the measure never came to a vote on the House floor. The ambassador returned to his post after one week.

* Ankara had launched a diplomatic offensive to block the bill. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara hours before the vote: "We are at a stage when U.S.-Turkish ties need maximum cooperation. Everybody should consider the importance of U.S.-Turkish relations for regional and global stability."

Will it affect Afghanistan, the Middle-East or Iran?

* Erdogan said the bill might harm Turkey-U.S. ties, but did not give any details. President Abdullah Gul said Turkey should not be held responsible for any negative consequences, but did not elaborate.

* Commentators had said the bill could affect Washington's use of the Incirlik Air base in southeast Turkey. Incirlik is vital in logistical support for U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Turkey is a transit route for U.S. troops going to and from Iraq, and has 1,700 non-combat troops in Afghanistan.

* Ankara has played a key role in Obama's strategy to get Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together in fighting al Qaeda and Taliban militants in their borders. Turkey has hosted high-level talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

* Turkey, which has boosted ties with its Muslim neighbours, is a major player in U.S.-backed Arab-Israeli peacemaking and has mediated in indirect talks between Syria and the Israelis.

* Ankara has offered to use its close ties with Iran to help solve a dispute between global powers and Tehran over its nuclear programme. The United States, France and other Western powers are preparing a plan for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. The bill could further alienate Turkey, which sits on the 15-member Security Council and has indicated it will not support more sanctions.

Armenia

* Erdogan said the bill would derail efforts to normalise ties with long-time foe Armenia. Ankara and Yerevan late last year signed an historic deal to reopen their border. The chairman of the Turkish parliament's foreign affairs committee had said the resolution could jeopardise Turkish parliamentary approval of the protocols.

* Muslim Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks but denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide -- a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments. Turks fear a wave of compensation and property claims by Armenians if Ankara ever gives ground on the issue.

Trade and military contracts

* Turkish media have suggested the bill may hurt bilateral trade and deny U.S. firms lucrative defence contracts. Vatan newspaper said on Thursday that Ankara had threatened to cancel defence contracts totalling $45 billion. U.S.-Turkish trade volume was $16.2 billion in 2008.

* The chief executives of Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Raytheon Co, United Technologies Corp and Northrop Grumman Corp this week issued a rare joint letter, warning passage of the bill could lead to "a rupture in U.S.-Turkey relations" and put American jobs at risk.

Anti-Americanism


* The issue of the Armenian massacres is deeply sensitive in Turkey and Turks, including Nobel Literature Laureate Orhan Pamuk, have been prosecuted in the European Union candidate country for referring to the killings as genocide. Most Turks view such bills as an insults to their national honour. There has been a wave of anti-Americanism in Turkey, particularly following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and many tensions linger. The bill could fan more anti-Americanism.
 

Date created : 2010-03-05

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