Friday, October 12, 2007
Turkish officials have expressed outrage over a United States congressional resolution labeling the Ottoman Empire‘s World War I era killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians as “genocide”. The Turkish government has warned that the resolution threatens its strategic partnership with the U.S.
The resolution, passed 27-21 by the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, states that “[t]he Armenian Genocide was conceived and carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, resulting in the deportation of nearly 2,000,000 Armenians, of whom 1,500,000 men, women, and children were killed”. The resolution calls on the President ” to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide.”
The World War I era killings, commonly referred to as the Armenian Genocide, have been recognized as genocide by 22 countries, including France, Russia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Canada. The killings have also been officially labeled as “genocide” by 40 of the 50 U.S. states. Turkey acknowledges that Armenians were killed, but calls it a massacre rather than an organized campaign of genocide.
On Thursday the Turkish government released a statement saying that “It is unacceptable that the Turkish nation should be accused of a crime that it never committed in its history.” “We still hope that the House of Representatives will have enough good sense not to take this resolution further,” the statement added. A statement on the Turkish Foreign Ministry web site said that the resolution “will not only endanger relations with a friendly and allied nation but will also jeopardize a strategic partnership that has been cultivated for generations.”
On Thursday, Turkey recalled its U.S. ambassador Nabi Sensoy, and warned of further repercussions. “Yesterday some in Congress wanted to play hardball,” said Turkish foreign policy adviser Egemen Bagis. “I can assure you Turkey knows how to play hardball.”
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said he was “disappointed” by the vote. While acknowledging that “[w]e understand the feelings that people have about the tragic suffering of the Armenian people,” Stanzel warned that “Turkey is playing a critical role in the war on terror and this action is problematic for everything we’re trying to do in the Middle East and would cause great harm to our efforts.” U.S. President George W. Bush had lobbied against the resolution, saying that it would damage relations between the U.S. and Turkey.
House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi said the resolution will go forward for a vote in the House despite Turkish opposition. “As long as there is genocide, there is a need to speak out against it,” Pelosi said.