Top Turkish General in US to Block Genocide

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkey’s senior armed forces commander was expected to caution US officials that Turkish-US military ties would be harmed if the US Congress adopted a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. The visit of General Yasar Buyukanit, Turkey’s Military Chief of Staff to Washington comes days after Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s visit to the Capital to lobby against the Genocide bill. During his visit, General Buyukanit is scheduled to meet Vice President Dick Cheney, Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman, and US Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker. In his meetings with US officials Buyukanit will also be discussing issues such as Iraq, the fight against terrorism, and recent developmen’s in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Gul said over the weekend that President George W. Bush would write to members of the Democratic-controlled Congress to urge them to oppose the Armenian Genocide resolution. "A resolution that would recognize the World War I era killings of Armenia’s as genocide would poison ties between strategic allies Turkey and the United States," Gul warned late Saturday. Gul said if passed, the resolution would cause permanent damage to relations and it will cause a deadlock in our relations. Gul asked the U.S. administration to take action. "It won’t have a fleeting effect; its results will be deep and lasting. I called on the U.S. administration to take urgent action. Secretary of State Rice will carry out an important work in the coming days. She will visit the Congress," Gul told reporters. Fresh off his US visit, Gul Monday backed amending Turkey’s controversial article 301, used to prosecute intellectuals including Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk and Armenian journalist Hrant Dink who was later shot dead. "I want this article amended because it puts a shadow on Turkey’s reform process," Gul said at a joint news conference with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. "It is damaging Turkey’s image. It is portraying Turkey as a country where hundreds of journalists and intellectuals are jailed for their speeches. This is wrong." Gul’s remarks came days after a group of trade unions and other non-governmental organizations proposed a new wording to the article, which makes insults to the Turkish state or its people a crime. The groups said the new wording would set clearer limits to what constitutes insult and what is legitimate criticism. Some non-governmental organizations were demanding scrapping the law completely, but Gul made clear the government favored amending it. "We want everyone to freely express their thoughts as long they don’t incite violence or amount to insult," Gul said. "These cannot be allowed. They are not allowed anywhere else." Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk and murdered journalist Hrant Dink were both prosecuted under the broad law criminalizing the denigration of "Turkishness." Both had spoken out about the mass killings of Armenia’s in the early 20th century. Numerous other writers, journalists and academics have also been prosecuted. On Saturday, police detained two men on suspicions that they were planning to hold up an Istanbul ferry to protest the fact that pro-Armenian slogans had been chanted at Dink’s funeral. An Istanbul court ordered the two men released after questioning, saying there was not enough evidence to charge them. Acting on a tip, police detained the two men at the city’s entrance Saturday, a police official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of rules that bar civil servants from speaking to reporters without prior authorization. Police said the two men–from the eastern city of Igdir, near the borders with Iran and Armenia–allegedly planned to hijack a ferry sailing between the Asian and European shores of the Bosporus, copying a ferry hijacking last month in the Dardanelles strait, police said. That hijacker had threatened to blow the ferry up in protesting the pro-American slogans. He had been carrying a gun, but no explosives, and after about two and a half hours surrendered to police. No passengers were harmed. As the two men detained Saturday left the courthouse, they shouted: "Turks have no other friends but Turks!" the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. Dink’s funeral inspired a massive outpouring of support for reconciliation between Armenia’s and Turks, with thousands chanting "We’re all Armenia’s." Nationalists however, were angered by the pro-Armenian slogans.

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