Committee Vote on Genocide Marks End Of Protocols, Says Turkish Official

ANKARA (Hurriyet)–The approval of the Armenia Genocide resolution by a U.S. House committee is not “the end of the world” but surely is the “end of the historic protocols” signed between Turkey and Armenia, according to a top official.

“No one should expect the Turkish Parliament to proceed with the protocols at least until April 24,” a senior foreign ministry official told a limited group of journalists Friday. April 24 is the international day of commemoration of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, committed by the Ottoman Turkish government.

Turkey and Armenia signed two protocols last year to establish diplomatic ties and open the border. The protocols, however, are yet to be ratified by either parliament. The resolution came at a moment of deadlock between Turkey and Armenia caused by Ankara’s demands on Yerevan to fulfill a set of preconditions, not defined in the agreement, before the protocols can be signed.

“Turkey has internal dynamics, too. The Parliament cannot make any step with regard to the protocols. There is a very important reaction,” the official told journalists.

He said, however, that Ankara considers there to be many more hurdles before the reconciliation process besides theHouse panel’s approval. “The lack of any development in the peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabahk conflict stands as an additional problem for Turkey, which promised its ally Azerbaijan not to proceed with the protocols unless Yerevan withdraws its troops from occupied Azeri lands,” he said.

“There was no positive development on this issue to make Turkey hopeful of concluding the reconciliation process with Armenia,” the official said, adding that Turkey has dispatched two of its top diplomats Friday to Russia to ensure Moscow’s full backing. Feridun Sinirlioglu, the undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, and Unal Cevikoz, his deputy, departed for Moscow on Friday.

According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, some circles in the U.S. administration think the resolution can be used as leverage against Ankara for swift ratification of the protocols. “We know who they are and what they are planning. They should know such an attempt will never be responded to by Turkey,” the diplomat noted.

“They perhaps wanted to give a message to Turkey to urge that, in the case of the failure of the process, they are ready with their sticks in hand.”

The same source also touched on the role of the Israeli lobby during this process. “Our ambassador to Washington met with all prominent representatives of the Israeli lobby. They promised to give support, but when compared to the past, their support was minimal. Perhaps they also wanted to give a message to Turkey to show the damage in ties between Ankara and Tel Aviv,” added the diplomat.

Though the House panel’s move disturbed Ankara, Turkish diplomats are still hopeful the resolution will not be endorsed by the full House of Representatives. “We are surly going to continue to press administration on this issue. Furthermore, we will do our best to stop the use of that word [genocide] by the U.S. President Barack Obama [in his April 24 statement],” the diplomat noted.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to go to the U.S. in mid-April to attend an international summit on nuclear energy. He could have a bilateral meeting with Obama, diplomats said, though there was not a meeting set between the two leaders.

The only concern for Turkey is the decrease of Obama’s influence over the congressmen before November’s elections. “We think he did not want to spend all his bullets. He obviously saves them for issues he considers more important for him,” the diplomat said.

Despite the great disturbance due to the approval of the resolution, the diplomat emphasized that Turkey was not planning to apply sanctions on the United States, such as canceling weapon deals or other economic ties at this stage. “The withdrawal of our ambassador is enough for the moment. If the resolution reaches the full House and is endorsed there, of course we will evaluate the issue and our bilateral ties once again,” the diplomat said.

“Turkish-American relations are interdependent. As they have expectations from us, we also have expectations from them,” added the diplomat.

Turkey and the United States cooperate on many important international issues including the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear row, Afghanistan and pipeline diplomacy.

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