LOS ANGELES–Amid a growing movement in Turkey calling for an apology of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish press reported Thursday that a Turkish Foreign Ministry delegation visiting Washington has allegedly secured assurances from top Obama aides that they will lobby the President-elect to refrain from describing the events of 1915 as Genocide during his first April 24 address.
Published in Turkey’s English-language Hurriyet Daily News, the report said Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ertugrul Apakan and Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu "paid a recent visit to Washington" on December 8-9 for "a series of talks" with aides to President-elect Obama and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton.
The delegation is said to have been given the "impression" that Obama’s team would "advise [the President-elect] to refrain from using the term genocide" in the annual commemoration address, according to Hurriyet.
The news comes amid a budding movement in Turkey calling for an apology to the Armenia’s for what is being referred to as the "Great Catastrophe of 1915."
The unprecedented apology was initiated earlier this month by a group of 200 Turkish academics, journalists, writers and artists disagreeing with the official Turkish version denying the Armenian Genocide.
The petition, titled "I apologize," was posted on the internet on Monday and has thus far garnered over 13,500 signatures from the Turkish public.
“I cannot conscientiously accept the indifference to the Great Catastrophe that Ottoman Armenia’s suffered in 1915, and its denial. I reject this injustice and acting of my own will, I share the feelings and pains of my Armenian brothers and sisters, and I apologize to them,” the petition reads.
"Today, as the voices of Turkey’s civil society speak out on this pressing human rights issue, the leaders of democratic countries around the world have a unique opportunity and responsibility to stand with them by unequivocally recognizing the Armenian Genocide," said Elizabeth Chouldjian, the Communications Director of the Armenian National Committee of America.
But Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Wednesday refused to join the rapidly growing online petition, saying that it is "unreasonable to apologize when there is no reason."
"If there is a crime, then those who committed it can offer an apology. My nation, my country has no such issue," he said about the petition, which has also drawn harsh criticism from Turkish nationalists and some 60 Turkish diplomats and ambassadors.
Erdogan warned the apology threatened to damage improving relations between Armenia and Turkey, an argument often used by Turkish officials to derail international efforts at nudging Turkey to recognize the crime.
The two diplomats are reported to have echoed those warnings during their meetings, saying that "bringing the Armenian claims to Congress would not only seriously hurt Turkish-American relations but also the new period of dialogue started between Yerevan and Ankara."
The two also allegedly issued a tacit warning on behalf of Ankara, echoing previous Turkish threats that the President elect’s use of the word genocide would "have a negative reflection on the cooperation of the two countries in resolving regional issues, including Iraq."
The report stands in stark contrast to a series of statemen’s issued by President-elect Obama expressing the urgency of a U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
"President-elect Obama has been clear–both as Senator and Presidential candidate–in his calls for proper U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide," Chouldjian said.