ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey on Friday praised the US Congress’ abandonment of a resolution accusing Turks of genocide against Armenia’s 85 years ago–saying it removed a major threat to Turkish-US relations.
"Friendship wins–hatred loses," the mass-selling Turkish daily Hurriyet said in a banner headline. "Clinton applies the brakes on genocide," said the daily Radikal.
Ankara had threatened retaliation against Washington–including trade sanctions and withdrawal of military co-operation–if the House of Representatives approved the motion pushed by the Armenian lobby. But President Bill Clinton’s intervention averted a vote on Thursday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem welcomed Congress’s move.
"Evaluating our calls and the facts we presented to them–they themselves have rescued the Turkish-US alliance from a major threat," Anatolian news agency quoted Cem as saying. "Thus–an unjust initiative against Turkey was prevented."
The resolution–which was approved by the House International Relations Committee earlier this month–urged Clinton to recognize "the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenia’s as genocide."
The non-binding measure outraged Turkey. Ministers hinted they could withdraw permission for US warplanes to use a Turkish base for patrols enforcing a no-fly zone in northern Iraq. The patrols–begun soon after the 1991 Gulf War–are a key part of US containment policy against Baghdad.
Similar resolutions have been blocked in US Congress over the past 20 years–but this time many Republican and Democratic lawmakers–whose districts have large Armenian constituencies–backed the measure.
Clinton told House Speaker Dennis Hastert that passage of the measure at a time of crisis in the Middle East "could have far-reaching negative consequences for the United States."
Though he supported the resolution–Illinois Republican Hastert said he had agreed to Clinton’s request to avoid further inflaming tensions in the Middle East–where a fragile cease-fire is now in place between Israel and the Palestinians.
Turkey had also threatened to withdraw from negotiations with US firm Bell Textron to buy 145 attack helicopters in a $4.5 billion tender.