ANKARA: US understands its sensitivities over the Armenian claims

Hürriyet , Turkey
March 8 2009

Turkey says US understands its sensitivities over the Armenian claims

The new U.S. administration appreciated Turkey’s opinions and
sensitivities regarding the Armenian claims on the 1915 incidents, the
Turkish Foreign Minister said on Saturday, adding later there was
however still a "risk" over the U.S. stance on the issue. (UPDATED)

The claims regarding the 1915 incidents was on the agenda during
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Turkey, Ali Babacan
was reported as saying by the Anatolian Agency at a joint press
conference after his meeting with Foreign Minister Alejandro Hamed
Franco of Paraguay in Ankara.

"I can easily say that the current U.S. administration perceives
Turkey’s opinion and sensitivity on this matter. We have no
difficulties with communication in that sense," he said when asked
Turkey’s concerns regarding the U.S. president’s stance on the issue.

The issue could be solved without any problems and without
overshadowing relations between Turkey and US, he added.

Armenia, with the backing of the diaspora, claims up to 1.5 million of
their kin were slaughtered in orchestrated killings in 1915. Turkey
rejects the claims saying that 300,000 Armenians, along with at least
as many Turks, died in civil strife that emerged when Armenians took
up arms, backed by Russia, for independence in eastern Anatolia.

Turkey has offered to form a joint commission to investigate what
happened in 1915 and opened up all official archives, but Armenia has
continued to drag its feet on accepting the offer.

"RISK" REMAINS
Babacan said however there was still a "risk" that U.S. President
Barack Obama would recognize the incidents as "genocide" in an
interview with NTV television channel on Sunday, adding that such a
move would only impede efforts to reconcile Turkey and Armenia.

"I still see a risk," Babacan said. "Mr. Obama made the promise five
times in a row."

Obama, who is expected to visit Turkey in April, said on several
occasions during his election campaign that he would recognize the
1915 incidents as "genocide".

PKK ISSUE
Replying to a question on whether Turkey expressed any demand for the
solution of the terrorist PKK organization issue before the
U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Babacan said the details of the withdrawal
plan were not clear yet, the agency also reported.

Media reports had suggested ahead of Clinton’s Ankara visit that a
demand to use Turkish soil as part of its Iraqi withdrawal could be
made during her meetings.

"However, there is no connection between the PKK issue and the
withdrawal process. Such a connection was expressed neither by us, nor
by them. There is a tripartite mechanism in Iraq and sharing of
intelligence and coordination of military units continue within this
framework," he said.

Turkey, provided with intelligence by the United States, has stepped
up its campaign to crackdown on the PKK both inside Turkey and in
northern Iraq, after the terror organization increased its attacks on
Turkish soldiers, as well as civilians.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the
international community, including the EU and the United States.

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