Turkey Threatens US Over Genocide Bill

THESSALONIKI–Greece (Reuters)–Turkey threatened unspecified measures against the United States on Monday if Congress approved a resolution recognizing a Turkish genocide against Armenia’s 85 years ago.

Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu told US Defense Secretary William Cohen on the sidelines of a Southeastern European defense meeting in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki that his country objected to the resolution.

“The Turkish side will take certain measures if the resolution is approved,” he told reporters. “It is not in line with historical facts. Our country has always been tolerant with other religions and languages.”

He did not say what the measures would be and Cohen made clear the US government opposed the resolution.

“President (Bill) Clinton–Secretary (of State Madeleine) Albright and me have publicly expressed our opposition and have asked for a rejection of this resolution,” he said. “Turkey is a critically important partner in NATO.”

Turkish parliamentarians warned the United States last week its warplanes might lose the use of a Turkish base to monitor northern Iraq if Congress approves the resolution.

Relations between Turkey and Washington have soured since a House of Representatives panel approved the non-binding resolution urging Clinton to acknowledge the killings of Armenia’s in 1915 as genocide.

Meanwhile–US energy projects worth up to $11 billion could be jeopardized if the House of Representatives approves the Genocide resolution–Turkish officials said on Tuesday.

“No one should think that US projects in Turkey will go unaffected if those allegations are passed in the House,” Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer said after meeting the new US Ambassador to Turkey Robert Pearson late on Monday.

“Although the decision is not binding on the US government–once it is passed through the House we take it as that country’s view,” Ersumer told reporters.

Turkish media and politicians have alluded to a series of measures–including economic sanctions–Ankara could adopt if the resolution is passed although most analysts say Turkey would think hard before putting at risk a military and political relationship that is a lynchpin of its foreign policy.

US firms are heavily in electricity generation and distribution energy projects in Turkey–which faces a record energy deficit this year and could suffer long power cuts over the winter.

An energy ministry report said 37 projects in which US companies were involved with their Turkish partners were to generate a total of 13,295 megawatts of established power capacity with a price tag of $11.045 billion.

US companies such as Enron and Edison Mission Energy have long been active in Turkey–producing electricity from two gas-fired power plants and selling it to the national grid.

Several other companies including AES–Unocal–Raytheon–CMS Energy–General Electric–Morrison Knudsen–Intergen and Peabody–have either signed contracts or have been negotiating to get a share of Turkey’s ambitious energy production and privatization drive.

Other projects the Turkish media have said could be harmed include a major purchase of attack helicopters for which US firm Bell Textron is Ankara’s preferred partner.

Ankara has also hinted it could suspend US use of its Incirlik air base. The US air force uses Incirlik as the center of its operations to patrol a no-fly zone over northern Iraq.

But US companies have urged caution on Turkish and US governmen’s in handling the issue.

“If the resolution is passed at the House of Representatives–this will not only be a disappointment for Turkey but also for US interests in Turkey,” said the Turkish representative of a leading US energy and contracting company.

“Both sides have to calculate the outcome very well. If the resolution is passed–Turkey should not make hasty decisions.”

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