Gul Warns Congress Against Passing Armenian Genocide Bill

WASHINGTON–Turkey’s foreign minister warned the US Congress that passing a resolution condemning as genocide the early 20th century killings of up to 1.5 million Armenia’s would harm relations with his country. "Adoption of even a nonbinding resolution in either chamber would seriously harm our bilateral relations," Abdullah Gul said Tuesday as he wrapped up a trip to Washington. Gul, speaking after meeting with top US officials, described the possible resolution as an irritant to otherwise close cooperation with the United States on vital issues including bringing political stability to Iraq, preventing nuclear proliferation and connecting Asian energy supplies with European markets. Even as the Bush administration says it will work with members of Congress to head off the genocide resolution, Gul warned that the US government should not get involved in the sensitive dispute. "I believe that Turkish-American relations should not be taken hostage by this issue," he said. "I see this as a real threat to our relationship." The administration also sees the issue as a threat to relations with Turkey, a secular democracy with a majority Muslim population and a key strategic ally. The administration has opposed previous attempts by members of Congress to pass resolutions recognizing the 1915-1919 killings in Anatolia as an organized genocide. "We have strategic issues of our relations based on the values," he said. "We have many positive common agenda that will have all these issues and continue." Before her meeting with Gul, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Turkey "a strategic ally, a global partner (that) shares our values." Turkey illustrated how seriously it takes the issue in October, when it said it would suspend military operations with France after French lawmakers voted in October to make it a crime to deny the killings were a genocide. Before meeting with Gul, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Turkey "a strategic ally, a global partner (that) shares our values." Speaking Tuesday at Washington’s National Press Club, Gul noted that the Armenian bill represented a serious threat to relations between Turkey and the US, saying "If it is passed, it will have a shock effect on our relations." During his talk at the Press Club, which was entitled "Turkey and the US: Allies in the past and into the future" Gul said, "We have no difficulty facing our own history. These events took place during a time of war. At the same time period, we lost 3 million people."The recognition of the Armenian bill would have a serious effect on our dual relations. Let’s not forget that we have been a long-time ally of the US, and will be so in the future. The Armenian bill should not be allowed to take Turkish-American relations hostage. It should not be politicized," said Gul. "Recommendations which we made to Armenian last year on what could be done are on the table, out in the open. We even opened up our secret military archives. This bill represents a real and serious threat to Turkish-American relations. Its acceptance would have a shock effect," added Gul. Gul met for 90 minutes Monday night with representatives of the United Jewish Communities Federation umbrella group, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, American Jewish Congress, Chabad-Lubavitch, B’nai B’rith International and the Orthodox Union and asked for assistance in facing down legislation sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff. In meetings with Rice and other officials, Gul raised US cooperation on preventing Kurdish rebels from using Northern Iraq as a sanctuary and a base of operations against Turkey by terrorists. The Turkish government has expressed frustration with level of US help in rooting out militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, holed up in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Retired Gen. Joseph Ralston, a former NATO supreme allied commander, has been coordinating US efforts for countering the PKK. Gul warned against suggestions in some US political circles that Iraq be split into three autonomous regions, which Turkey fears would create an independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq and embolden PKK separatists in southeastern Turkey. "A soft partition of Iraq is a fantasy," he said. "Iraq does not have internal boundaries." During his visit, Gul asked Jewish leaders to lobby against the Genocide resolution. In Ankara meanwhile, the US Ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, announced that he will be going to the US in March to try and contribute to administration efforts to prevent the Armenian bill from passing through the Congress. Speaking two nights ago at a reception in the US Embassy in Ankara, Wilson reiterated previous statemen’s that the Bush administration is against the Armenian bill, and that they are making an effort to stop it from passing.

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