ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu denounced a U.S. congressional committee over the weekend for scheduling a vote on the Armenian Genocide resolution, saying that its passage would seriously harm Turkey’s relations with both the United States and Armenia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Monday.
Davutoglu reportedly suggested that Washington is using the prospect of the resolution’s passage by the U.S. House of Representatives to force Turkey to ratify its fence-mending agreements with Armenia. He also accused Yerevan of hampering further progress in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Why is that draft included on the [committee] agenda now?” he said, according to a “Hurriyet” report cited by the Azerbaijani APA news agency on Monday. “Let them not expect from us the ratification of protocols by using April 24 as a tool for pressure.
“The draft’s inclusion on the agenda is not in the interests of the USA, Turkey and Armenia. This process can lead both our bilateral relations with the USA and Turkey’s rapprochement with Armenia into deadlock.”
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian Monday commented on the Turkish diplomat’s most recent warning to Washington. “Davutoglu has developed quite a nasty habit of lecturing America,” said Hamparian, urging Congress and President Obama to look past the foreign pressure and stand firm behind US values and principles.
“It’s no more Turkey’s place to tell our Congress how it can speak about the Armenian Genocide, than it is the Chinese government’s place to tell our President whether he can meet with the Dalai Lama,” Hamparian said. “Just as President Obama has properly taken a stand against China’s threats, so too should the entire U.S. government reject Ankara’s gag-rule on the proper commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.”
The Armenian Genocide resolution (H.Res.252) which was introduced by U.S. lawmakers a year ago, urges President Barack Obama to “ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of the failure to realize a just resolution.”
The resolution also “calls upon the President in the President’s annual message commemorating the Armenian Genocide issued on or about April 24, to accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide and to recall the proud history of United States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.”
Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Friday that the panel will vote on it early next month.
The vote will come less than two months before the 95th anniversary of the start of Genocide. Turkey, which denies its crime and continues to occupy Western Armenian lands, vehemently condemned similar bills that were passed by the committee but never put to a full House vote in the past. It refers to the crime not as genocide but as killings and ethnic strife that occurred on a small scale and were not the result of a premeditated government effort to exterminate Ottoman Turkey’s Armenian population.
Davutoglu said he raised Ankara’s concerns with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg at a meeting held on Saturday on the sidelines of an international security conference in Munich. Speaking to Turkish journalists on his way back from the conference, he claimed that Armenia was also behind the scheduling of the congressional committee vote.
“At first, Armenia’s Constitutional Court made comments about the signed protocols that are unacceptable to us,” Davutoglu said, according to APA. “Then the Armenian side retreated from a constructive position during the [last] meeting between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian. Now such a bill is being included on the U.S. Congress agenda.”
“The sequence of these three events is making us think that this is not happening by chance,” added Davutoglu.
Official Yerevan, meanwhile, signaled on Monday its satisfaction with progress of the genocide bill. When asked by RFE/RL to comment on the planned vote on the bill, an Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman cited statements on the issue made by President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in recent months.
Sarkisian said in an October address to the nation that the Armenian genocide “must be recognized and condemned by the entire progressive humanity.” Nalbandian, for his part, told RFE/RL last month that Armenia “will never cast doubt on the importance of international recognition of the genocide.”