Turkish Parliament Blasts US for Genocide Bill

ANKARA (Reuters–RFE/RL)–The Turkish parliament on Sunday unanimously passed a motion condemning a pending US Congress resolution recognizing accusations that Turks committed genocide against Armenia’s in 1915.

The House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee on Thursday postponed by a week the non-binding resolution urging President Bill Clinton to “characterise the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenia’s as genocide.”

Turkey is considering retaliation should the resolution be adopted.

“Turkey’s parliament is watching with sadness and careful attention as the US Congress deliberates on the so-called Armenian genocide; deliberations which have caused our people indignation,” the motion said.

It accused US lawmakers of “distorting history–taking one side and acting on false accusations to settle small political accounts … and endangering the long-standing Turkish-American friendship.”

US Secreteary of State Madeleine Albright has criticized the resolution–pressed by the Armenian lobby in the United States. The US ambassador to Ankara has also flown back to Washington to talk to legislators sponsoring it.

Turkish lawmakers also accused Armenia of “showing lack of respect for its neighbors’ territorial sovereignty … We would ask Armenian leaders to abandon this path–stop their attempts to turn a third country against Turkey and seek ways to live with Turkey as its neighbor.”

Turkish newspapers have said that officials are considering closing an air corridor to eastern neighbor Armenia.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said in a speech at the opening of parliament on Sunday: “What a shame that (US) politicians are allowing anti-Turkey lobbies to damage our relations.

“We will not accept the attempt to distort facts–to show an event not proven by history as fact and to darken the Turkish nation. This development causes us much regret.”

Armenia on Monday rejected Turkey’s claims that it is actively encouraging the US Congress to pass a bill that would effectively recognize the Genocide–reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

In a statement unanimously approved on Sunday–the Turkish parliament warned that Armenia’should stop raising the issue in the international arena or risk further deteriorating its already strained relations with Turkey. Official Ankara denies that the deaths of over one million Armenia’s were the result of a premeditated genocidal policy pursued by the Ottoman government.

The warning comes as a non-binding resolution amounting to an official American recognition of the genocide makes its way through the House of Representatives with the active encouragement of Armenian-American lobbying groups. The House International Relations Committee is expected to vote on the draft resolution on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Armenian foreign ministry–Ara Papian–told RFE/RL that "if Turkey has problems with the US it should try to solve them with the US and not blame Armenia." He said any "threatening statemen’s" from the Turkish authorities are unacceptable. "We have said many times that the recognition of the genocide is one of the priorities of our foreign policy. Our president and foreign ministry have called for the recognition not in order to exacerbate relations [with Turkey]," Papian said. "On the contrary–we believe that problems between the two peoples can be overcome if they jointly find acceptable solutions."

According to the "Turkish Daily News" newspaper–the statement was approved by all political parties represented in the Turkish parliament at its first session after the summer recess. "We would like to remind those that govern Armenia of the need to abandon this course of action–to cease initiatives they are pursuing in the institutions of third-party countries against Turkey and to seek ways of living together with Turkey as good neighbors. If they choose this preferable course of action there is no doubt that the people of Armenia will reap the rewards it will bring," the statement said.

But Papian complained that Turkey opposed a normalization of bilateral relations even when the previous authorities Yerevan did not seek international recognition of the Armenian genocide. The two neighboring countries have no diplomatic relations–with Ankara making their establishment conditional on Armenian recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The statement also warned that supporters of the pro-Armenian bill on Capitol Hill "jeopardize the good Turkish-American relations that have lasted for many years," adding that a House subcommittee that voted in favor of the legislation late last month "greatly offended the Turkish people."

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