RIYADH (Combined Sources)– Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday Turkey will not return its ambassador to Washington until it gets a “clear sign” from the administration after on the Armenian Genocide resolution, approved by the US House Foreign Affairs committee on March 4.
“As long as the situation does not get any clearer we will not send back our ambassador to Washington,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by state-news agency Anatolian. He did not elaborate.
“America should not let go of a strategic ally like Turkey over such an issue,” he said.
An infuriated Ankara recalled Ambassador Namik Tan on Thursday, shortly after the panel narrowly approved the non-binding resolution.
The move now opens the door for a vote by the full House of Representatives. The Obama administration has, however, vowed to stop the resolution from going further in Congress, fearing damage to ties with Turkey.
Erdogan over the weekend called the committee move “a comedy stunt” and blamed the vote on a combination of “unbecoming” voting procedures in the US Congress and a change of attitude by the “Jewish lobby” to back the action.
“The Jewish lobby in the US supported this resolution,” he said.
The resolution calls on Obama to ensure that US foreign policy reflects an understanding of the genocide and to label the mass killings as such in his annual statement on the issue.
1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered by the Ottoman Turkish government during World War I in a planned campaign of extermination. Though international genocide scholars, historians, and the official US record on the matter confirm the truth of the crime, Turkey vehemently denies any wrongdoing. The government in Ankara leverages its hired lobbyists and the threat of damaged ties to fight against any form of US recognition of the genocide.
Ankara is worried that if the genocide is officially labeled as such by Washington or others, this could possibly open the door to legal claims for restitution and reparation by the Armenian people.
In a bid to appease Turkey, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday the administration would “work very hard” to stop the resolution from going before the full House.
Meanwhile, the opposition nationalist MHP Party has called on parliament to take steps against Washington’s use of the Incirlik air base on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
Incirlik plays a key role in logistical support for U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Turkey has also said the resolution could jeopardize a fragile drive by Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations and open borders.
Following US-backed bridge-building talks, Turkey and Armenia signed a deal last October to establish diplomatic relations and open their border.
But the process has already hit the rocks, with Ankara demanding that Yerevan agree to drop its support of international genocide recognition before the protocols are ratified.