Turkish FM Warns Obama Against Genocide Recognition

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Sunday there was a "risk" that US President Barack Obama would recognize the Armenian Genocide. He also warned against such a move, noting it would affect the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia.

“I still see a risk,” he said in an interview with the NTV television channel . “Mr. Obama made the promise five times in a row.” However, he added, “The new American administration understands Turkey’s sensibilities better today.”

According to Babacan,”It would not be rational for a third country to take a position on this topic. A bad step by the United States would only worsen the process” of reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey.

The Anatolian News Agency reported Sunday that during a joint news conference after meeting with Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Alejandro Hamed Franco on Sunday, Babacan said the genocide issue was on the agenda during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Turkey on Saturday.

Obama to Visit Turkey in April

Babacan’s warning came a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Ankara that Obama would visit Turkey "within the next month or so." The visit will take place in April.

The Turkish Hurriyet Daily reported Monday that unnamed diplomatic sources and analysts say that Ankara is likely to start taking “concrete measures” soon toward reconciliation with Armenia.

Clinton, who was in Turkey meeting with Babacan, President Abdullah Gul, and Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said her trip aimed at emphasizing the work the U.S. and Turkey must do “on behalf of peace, prosperity, and progress.”

The President’s visit also represents a good opportunity to “impress upon Turkey’s government and society the importance that he attaches to Turkey ending its denial of the Armenian Genocide and lifting its blockade of Armenia,” said the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America, Aram Hamparian.

The US State Department on Saturday issued a joint statement from Clinton and Babacan reaffirming the close U.S.-Turkish relationship.

The statement said, both countries pledged to pursue an Arab-Israeli peace settlement, peace in the southern Caucasus region, normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations and a settlement of the Cyprus question — a dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots over territory.

President Obama said several times during his election campaign that he would recognize the 1915-1917 massacres under the Ottoman Empire as genocide. The United States has previously condemned the killings while not calling them genocide to avoid tensions with Turkey, a NATO member and key Middle East ally.

On Jan. 19, in a statement on the importance of relations between the U.S. and Armenia, Obama said, “As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

Although there is a wide consensus among genocide and Holocaust scholars that the Armenian Genocide took place, the Turkish state continues to vehemently deny that a state-sponsored campaign took the lives of approximately 1.5 million Armenia’s during World War I.

The Armenia’s, the official Turkish argument goes, were victims of ethnic strife, or war and starvation, just like many Muslims living in the Ottoman Empire. Turkey invests millions of dollars in the United States to lobby against resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide and to produce denialist literature.

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