Sunday, April 01, 2007

Turkey Warns Of 'Repercussions' If US Armenian Bills Pass

Dow Jones Newswires
Gul said below, "Do they know the (Ottoman Empire's) foreign minister at the time was Armenian, along with many (Ottoman) ambassadors? ". I wander who are these elusive (no name) Armenian politicians in the Ottoman Empire and what happened to them?
ANKARA -(Dow Jones)- The United States will witness "repercussions" from Turkey, a key ally, if the U.S. Congress approves proposals to categorize the World War I deaths of thousands of Armenians fleeing the Ottoman Empire as genocide, the Turkish Foreign Minister told Dow Jones Newswires on Friday.

The Turkish military is also poised to crack down on an armed Kurdish rebel group that has been in a decades-long conflict with Turkey if Iraq and the U.S. don't do more to protect the Turkish border, Gul said in an interview. Gul would not say exactly when the Turkish military had entered northern Iraq to combat the Kurdistan Workers Party or P.K.K. "From time to time we have gone into the area," he said. "It is our legitimate right to take all necessary measures to fight this terrorist group. They are using weapons against us," he said, adding that Turkey respected Iraq's territorial sovereignty.

Turkey, an important NATO ally and strategic ally of the U.S., has urged the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to drop some draft Armenian bills. Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, have also asked some Congress members to abandon the measures, which Turkey considers insults.

Legislatures in 15 countries have approved symbolic measures calling the Armenian deaths genocide. France passed such a resolution in October, which resulted in Turkey canceling many defense contracts with that country.

Gul did not spell out exactly what consequences would follow if Congress moves forward on the Armenian measures. "How can politicians over there debate something they know little about?" he asked. "Do they know the (Ottoman Empire's) foreign minister at the time was Armenian, along with many (Ottoman) ambassadors? ... that thousands of Turks also died during this time?"

"If it happens (Congress votes to approve the measure), there will be repercussions," Gul said. "We have strategic relations with the U.S. I get along with many people there, but it is my duty to talk about the consequences of these actions. The measures are an insult to Turkey." Gul, who spoke on several matters in a 45-minute interview at his office in the Turkish capital, said Turkey was willing to go to Iran to mediate a standoff between Iran and Britain after Iran seized 15 sailors and marines last week, if doing so would help resolve the situation. "We are in discussions with Iran. We've made our opinions known and we hope this will be resolved soon," he said. Iran seized the military personnel after, Iranian officials assert, British boats entered Iranian waters. The British government roundly denies this and says the personnel were in Iraqi waters.

Gul, who was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs four years ago, challenged Congress to appoint some members as third parties to a panel, along with Armenia, on the sensitive historical question. "They can come here. We'll open up all the archives. We're ready to face the result," he said. Armenians and many international historians insist that thousands of Armenians died at the hands of the Turks during the final days of the Ottoman Empire. But a chasm has existed for decades between Turkey and many historians outside that country over the circumstances under which the deaths occurred. The Ottoman Empire deported Armenians that led to the deaths of around 1.5 million between 1915 and 1923, according to many historical estimates. Most human rights observers have called the period genocide but Turkey rejects the terminology and says the deaths resulted during a time of war and followed an Armenian rebellion during which thousands of Turks died.

Although relations between Turkey and the U.S. have thawed in the past couple of years, memories are still fresh in Washington of Turkey's refusal to approve the Bush Administration's request to allow U.S. troops passage from Turkey into Iraq during the 2003 American-led invasion. Turkey has been frustrated with the Iraqi government and the U.S.over their refusal to crackdown on the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which Turkey says has grown stronger in relatively peaceful northern Iraq. Gul said he believed the U.S.was "shy and embarrassed" by the fact that it was not doing more to reduce the PKK threat in the region even though it was battling militants in other parts of the world. "I've told Vice President Cheney: 'what if there were terrorists in Mexico coming over the border into the US. What would you do? What do you expect us to do in this situaton with the PKK?' " The PKK, branded a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the U.S., picked up arms in 1984 to carve out an ethnic homeland in Southeast Turkey in a campaign that led to the deaths of more than 30,000 civilians. After the capture of the group's leader in 1999, the insurgents largely withdrew from Turkey to neighboring Iran and Syria, but mostly to northern Iraq, where Turkey fears the group has regrouped. Gul's comments come days after Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi warned against a Turkish incursion into northern Iraq and promised to prevent cross-border attacks by the rebels. The U.S. has also warned against Turkish entry into the region as it fears such a move could lead to tension with local non-combative Iraqi Kurdish groups -- key U.S. allies -- and to wider conflict in a region that has been the only real success story since the U.S. removed Saddam Hussein from power.

Gul, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party, said he was optimistic that the restart of discussions this week with the European Union over Turkey's decades' long quest to join the EU would lead to broader discussions. "Two chapters are being discussed now and I think we'll have four more in the coming weeks," he said. In the near future, the two governments should discuss economic and monetary policy issues, culture and education, statistics, and financial controls, he said.

-By Spencer Swartz, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)207 842 9357;

(END) Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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