Turkey Again Warns US Over Genocide Recognition

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–In yet another attempt to dissuade the United States from issuing an official recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s foreign minister has warned Barack Obama’s incoming administration on the eve of his historic inauguration that any U.S. recognition of the genocide could derail reconciliation efforts between the two neighbors, reported AFP.

"It would not be very rational for a third country to take a position on this issue… A wrong step by the United States will harm the process," the Anatolia news agency quoted Ali Babacan as saying late Friday.

Turkey has "never been closer" to normalizing ties with Armenia, its eastern neighbor, and a breakthrough could be secured in 2009, the minister said.

But according to Armenian Revolutionary Federation Political Director Kiro Manoyan, the opposite is true. "The recognition of the Genocide by the U.S. can contribute to the improvement of the Armenian-Turkish relations, not hurt them," he said, speaking to reporters in Yerevan on Monday.

Despite Babacan’s claims that Turkish-Armenian relations are thawing, Ankara continues to derail grassroots attempts at reconciliation between the two peoples, maintaining instead a series of preconditions for establishing diplomatic ties with Yerevan. According to Turkey, relations can only be established once Armenia agrees to a historical commission on the Armenian genocide and makes major concessions to Azerbaijan in the Karabakh peace talks. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan severed ties with Armenia in 1993, closing borders and imposing an economic blockade on Yerevan in a bid to force Armenia to drop support for the self-determination of the people of Karabakh and end its campaign for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Babacan’s remarks are the latest in a string of deman’s on Washington to stay quiet on the human rights issue. The warning comes a week after news broke that a group of Turkish intellectuals may get jail sentences initiating an online apology for what they called the “Great Catastrophe” of 1915.

The group under investigation is being charged with Insulting the Turkish Republic under article 301 of the Turkish penal code. The apology campaign, which began in early December, garnering over 26,000 signatures in support of the initiative and sparked a long overdue discussion in Turkey about the Armenian Genocide, a topic still considered taboo.

Babacan, along with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, slammed the initiative as baseless, and issued stern warnings that the grassroots apology to Turkey’s neighbors could derail attempts at reconciliation with Armenia.

Obama, who takes office Tuesday, pledged during his election campaign to reaffirm the US record on the genocide. Washington has traditionally condemned the massacres, but has so far refrained from terming them genocide due to concern about straining relations with Turkey, a NATO member and ally in the Middle East.

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