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Turkey Lashes Out at U.S. Lawmakers for Armenian ‘Genocide’ Measure

Turkey criticized U.S. lawmakers and recalled its ambassador after a House panel voted to approve a measure that recognizes the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I as "genocide." A congressman and a former U.S. diplomat explain the issues at hand.

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    In Turkey today, there were street protests decrying a vote by a committee of the U.S. Congress. That vote labeled as "genocide" the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in the early 20th century.

    Turkish politicians joined demonstrators in Istanbul, denouncing the vote of American politicians. Erkan Onsel is vice president of Turkey's Labor Party.

  • ERKAN ONSEL, Vice President, Turkish Labor Party (through translator):

    The United States of America legitimized the Armenian genocide claim, which has swung over Turkey's head like a stick and which has posed a threat to Turkey for years. The U.S. has made it clear once again that it targets Turkey.


    Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, also harshly criticized the non-binding resolution, telling the state-run news agency Anatolia, "Some politicians in the United States have once again sacrificed important matters to petty domestic politics, despite all calls to common sense."

    And late today, the Turks recalled their ambassador to Washington.

    The Bush administration had lobbied hard against a resolution sure to upset a key American ally that plays a crucial support role for U.S. forces in Iraq.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915, but this resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings.

    ROBERT GATES, Secretary of Defense: Seventy percent of all air cargo going into Iraq goes through Turkey. About a third of the fuel that they consume goes through Turkey or comes from Turkey.


    But despite the administration's pressure, the Democratic-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted the resolution by a vote of 27-21.

    REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D), California: There are those who'd say that, every time we discuss this resolution in committee, it's an irritant to our relationship with Turkey. That's the best reason to vote for it here and on the floor. Let us do this and be done with it. We will get a few angry words out of Ankara for a few days, and then it's over.


    Some Republicans voted for the resolution, but most opposed it, saying the timing was particularly bad.

    REP. DAN BURTON (R), Indiana: The strongest ally in the area, and has been for over 50 years, is Turkey. And I just don't understand why we're going to cut our nose off, shoot ourselves in the foot at a time when we need this ally.


    Democratic leaders say they will bring the measure before the full House within weeks, a promise welcomed by the country's several hundred thousand Armenian-Americans, some of whom were on hand for the committee vote.

  • ARTIN MANOUKIAN, Armenian-American:

    My grandfather was a survivor. I think it's a day of relief somehow, and I think I'm starting getting that quest for justice. And I hope that, down the road, we will have that.

  • HAIG HOVSEPIAN, Armenian National Committee:

    We were standing strong on this historical record. We were not being coaxed into being silent by somebody who calls themselves an ally of ours.


    The dispute came amid rising tensions along the Turkish-Iraqi border, where Turkish troops have been skirmishing with Kurdish nationalist guerrillas. Within days, President Gul is expected to ask parliament for authority to cross the Iraqi border and engage Kurdish guerrillas, known as the PKK.