Turkey Presses Israel Over ADL’s Recognition Of ‘Armenian Genocide’

By Barak Ravid

24 Aug 07

The Turkish government is pressuring Israel in an effort to reverse
an American Jewish organization’s decision to recognize Turkey’s
massacre of Armenians during World War I as genocide.

A meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Israel’s
ambassador to Ankara, Pinhas Avivi, became "shrill," according to
Foreign Ministry sources in Jerusalem. Gul expressed Ankara’s "anger
and disappointment" over the matter.

On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League announced that it recognizes the
events in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were massacred as
"genocide." ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said he made the
decision after discussing the matter with historians and with Nobel
Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

According to an Israeli ministry source, Gul told the Israeli
ambassador that "Turkey knows Israel was not responsible for the
Anti-Defamation League’s announcement, but is disappointed because
Israel could have done something to prevent it." Avivi replied that
Jerusalem was not involved in the ADL’s decision and that "there is
no change in Israel’s position. We are not taking sides, and believe
that the parties must hold a dialogue to clarify and investigate the
matter and determine what really happened."

A senior Foreign Ministry official told Haaretz yesterday that the
main focus now is on calming the situation.

"This is a highly sensitive issue for Turkey, and we have signaled to
them that there is no change in our position and that we do not wish
to harm the friendly ties between our countries. We believe that they
have understood our message," the official said.

The question of the Armenian genocide is being handled at the
highest levels of the Turkish leadership, and Foreign Ministry
sources noted that President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan are planning to discuss the matter with their
Israeli counterparts, Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert.

Israel is concerned that the matter may lead to a genuine diplomatic
crisis between the two countries, and it has sent quiet signals to
American Jewish organizations in an effort to lower the tone. The
Foreign Ministry is concerned that the strategic relationship between
the two countries could be harmed and that the Jewish community in
Turkey could be affected.