Saturday, October 13, 2007

U.S. officials head to Turkey over genocide dispute

Sat Oct 13, 2007 6:33 AM EDT
Reuters Canada, Canada
Turkey is out to discipline the USA for daring to speak its opinion. First this is not becoming of a great nation and second Turkey should realize that the article 301 under its penal code which prohibits the use of the term genocide by penalizing is counter US values of free speech.
By Arshad Mohammed and Daren Butler
MOSCOW/ANKARA (Reuters) - Two top U.S. officials flew to Ankara on Saturday after a worsening of ties between the NATO allies and fears Turkey will launch a military incursion into northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels, diplomats said.

Relations between the two countries have been strained by a U.S. congressional resolution branding as genocide massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915. Some analysts believe the vote could weaken Washington's "restraining" influence on Turkey and make an incursion more likely in coming weeks.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried and U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman will make the trip from Moscow where they have been accompanying Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said a U.S. official who spoke on condition he not be named.

The two are likely to hear sharp criticism from the Turkish government, which this week recalled its ambassador to the United States to Ankara for consultations and said U.S.-Turkish relations were in danger because of the resolution.

The Turkish government, which faces pressure from the public and the army to act, has decided to seek approval from parliament next week for a major operation.

Kurdish separatist rebels said on Friday they were crossing back into Turkey to target politicians and police after the prospect of a cross-border military operation emerged.

The United States relies heavily on Turkish bases to supply its war effort in Iraq, where more than 160,000 U.S. troops are trying to restore stability more than four years after the invasion that toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Turkey denies genocide was committed but said many died in inter-ethnic fighting. It remains a sensitive issue, but many Turks are starting to more openly discuss such past taboos.

The U.S. resolution was proposed by a politician with many Armenian-Americans in his district and is the culmination of decades of pressure by a strong Armenian lobby that enjoys wide support in Congress.


Ankara has long complained that Washington has not done enough on its own or through the Iraqi government to crack down on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels who use the mountains of northern Iraq as a base to attack Turkish targets.

Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group launched its armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

The possibility of a major Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq is deeply troubling to U.S. officials, who fear this could destabilize a relatively peaceful area of Iraq.

The presence of Edelman, who was with Fried in Moscow for a meeting of the U.S. and Russian foreign and defense ministers, may aim to appeal to the Turkish military, a highly influential institution in the mostly Muslim but secular nation. Edelman was U.S. ambassador to Turkey from July 2003 to June 2005.

Amid further signs of repercussions from the resolution, a conference being held by the Turkish-U.S. Business Council in the United States this week was cancelled, along with a visit by Turkish Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen, CNN Turk television said.

Turkey and the United States are NATO allies but relations have been strained in recent years, particularly after Ankara's refusal to allow the United States to use its territory to stage the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

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.

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