October 9, 2007
Turkey Warns United States Over Armenian Vote
Filed at 6:30 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Turkish lawmakers visited Capitol Hill on
Tuesday and their president has written to President George W. Bush,
warning of damage to bilateral ties if Congress backs a bill
recognizing the 1915 massacres of Armenians as genocide.
The House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee is to consider
the bill on genocide Wednesday. If it passes the committee, House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi could then decide to bring it to the House floor
for a vote. She has been a long-time supporter of the resolution.
The Republican president is opposed to the bill, but Congress is
dominated by Democrats, many of whom back the measure. It has 226
co-sponsors, over half the House of Representatives.
In Ankara, President Abdullah Gul’s office said in a statement: "In
his letter, our president thanked President Bush for his efforts (to
stop the bill) and drew attention to the problems it would create in
bilateral relations if it is accepted."
A senior lawmaker of Turkey’s ruling AK Party, Egemen Bagis, led a
delegation to Capitol Hill to warn that passage of the resolution
would put military cooperation with Turkey at risk and endanger U.S.
troops in Iraq.
The bulk of supplies for troops in Iraq pass via Turkey’s Incirlik
airbase. In an interview with Reuters, Bagis noted that thousands of
Turkish truck drivers, construction workers, engineers and contractors
have been risking their lives to help the U.S. effort in Iraq.
"This resolution will put your (U.S.) troops in harm’s way," he said.
"We will not be able to extend the current cooperation we are
providing to you."
"If our allies are insulting us with crimes we have not committed, we
will start questioning the merits of that endeavor," Bagis said,
speaking in English.
In addition to military cooperation, defense contracts and energy
cooperation would also be put at risk, he said.
Turkey, a NATO ally of Washington, strongly rejects the Armenian
position, backed by many Western historians and a growing number of
foreign parliaments, that up to 1.5 million Armenians suffered
genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War One.
Ankara says many Muslim Turks as well as Christian Armenians died in
inter-ethnic conflict as the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
The bill comes at a delicate time for Turkey-U.S. relations. Turkish
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who telephoned Bush last week about the
Armenian resolution, was considering Tuesday whether to allow a
cross-border incursion into northern Iraq to strike Kurdish rebels
there after 15 Turkish soldiers were killed in attacks in recent days.
Washington has urged Turkey not to send troops into mainly Kurdish
northern Iraq for fear of destabilizing the country’s most peaceful
Would Turkey listen to Washington’s urgings?
"Tomorrow’s vote (on the Armenian resolution) definitely will have an
effect on that," Bagis said.
Bagis said Washington should pressure the leaders of the Kurdish
region of Iraq to hand over Kurdish rebels who he said had taken