News24

US warned over genocide bill

2010-03-01 17:02

Ankara – Turkey warned on Monday that relations with its ally the US would be damaged if a US congressional panel votes this week to label a World War 1-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces as "genocide".

The Armenian issue has poisoned ties between Nato member Turkey and the US in the past. In 2007, Ankara recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations after a US panel voted on a similar bill.

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.

Ankara has said such a resolution would also hurt efforts by Turkey and Armenia to normalise ties.

"We want to believe that the Committee members will act responsibly and that they are aware that the acceptance of the bill could damage Turkey-US ties as well as the efforts of peace and stability in the South Caucasus," Turkey's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Burak Ozugergin told reporters.

Non-binding resolution

The non-binding resolution, to be voted on March 4, would call on US President Barack Obama to ensure that US policy formally refers to the massacre as "genocide" and to use that term when he delivers his annual message on the issue in April – something Obama avoided doing last year.

The Obama administration sees Turkey as a key ally whose help it needs in solving confrontations from Iran to Afghanistan.

Turkey and Armenia signed accords last year to normalise ties after a century of hostility that traces its roots to the 1915 mass killing and deportation of Armenians.

Since then, the process has been thrown into question by the weight of still-unresolved disputes.

Ankara and Yerevan have accused each other of trying to rewrite the texts, which are the closest the sides have come to overcoming the mass killings legacy.

The accords require approval by parliaments both in Yerevan and Ankara. Both sides accuse each other of dragging their feet.