Friday, March 5, 2010

Turkey acts like victim of House committee's genocide vote

Turkey reacted furiously but predictably Thursday after the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians after World War I in what is now Turkey. As many as 1.5 million Armenians died in the chaos of the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, which was defeated in the war along with its ally, Germany. But Turkey vehemently refuses to acknowledge the killings as genocide, contending instead that the slayings did not qualify as a genocide because they were not planned. "We condemn this bill that denounces the Turkish nation of a crime that it has not committed," Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said from Ankara, the capital, according to the New York Times. Turkey also recalled its new U.S. ambassador, Namik Tan, for consultations, the Times said. The nonbinding resolution passed the Foreign Affairs Committee on a 23-22 vote, even closer than a 2007 vote that was quickly squashed by the Bush administration out of concern for evolving diplomatic relations with Turkey. The Obama administration also tried, apparently too late, to prevent the committee from approving the resolution, the Times said. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Rep. Howard Berman (D-California), the committee chairman, that a vote could damage U.S.-sponsored efforts aimed at reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, its neighbor. Those efforts were successful in producing still-pending agreements between the two countries for closer relations, open borders and to set up a commission to examine the historical record. "We've pressed hard to see the progress that we've seen to date, and we certainly do not want to see that jeopardized," said Philip Crowley, a State Department spokesman. Crowley said Obama discussed normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia on Wednesday with Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, the Times said.

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