Thursday, October 11, 2007

Armenia ‘genocide’ vote is snub to Bush

October 11 2007
Financial Times, UK
By Daniel Dombey in Washington

US legislators on Wednesday defied the Bush administration and angered the Turkish government when they voted to describe the mass killings of Armenians more than eight decades ago as genocide.

The 27-21 decision by the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, which paves the way for a vote in the full House in coming weeks, came in spite of a warning from George W. Bush, president, and his top officials that co-operation with Turkey and the fate of US troops in Iraq could be at stake.

It also comes as the US seeks to convince Turkey not to carry out a large-scale military incursion into northern Iraq to crack down on Kurdish militants.

Proponents of the measure, which has vigorous support from the Armenian-American population, argue that its call for Mr Bush to “accurately characterise the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1.5m Armenians as genocide” is essential to putting the historical record straight.

“The sad truth is that the modern government of Turkey refuses to come to terms with this genocide,” said Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey, at an emotionally charged session attended by four survivors of the mass killings that began in 1915.

“Let us do this and be done with it,” said Representative Brad Sherman of California. “We will get a few angry words out of Ankara for a few days, and then it’s over.”

But only hours before the committee voted Mr Bush warned that passage of the resolution “would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in Nato and in the global war on terror”.

According to US commanders in Iraq, including Gen David Petraeus, Robert Gates, defence secretary, said: “Access to airfields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk if this resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they will.” He added that about 70 per cent of US air cargo going into Iraq went through Turkey.

US officials say passage of the resolution by the full House will make Washington’s bid to convince Turkey not to launch a military incursion into Iraq much harder. Public outrage against the Kurdish separatist PKK has flared in the wake of an attack in which 13 soldiers were killed on Sunday.

Washington’s push for Turkey take a more collaborative approach on combating PKK has also been complicated by the resignation of Joseph Ralston, the retired US general who had been seeking to increase Washington-Ankara co-operation against the militant group.

“For his own reasons he decided that he was going to be moving on,” said Sean McCormack, state department spokesman, this week. “Any continuing presence of the PKK or the continuing activities of the PKK is not because what he did or did not do.” He added that he was not yet aware of a possible replacement for Gen Ralston.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home