WASHINGTON–Seeking to intimidate Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama into silence on the Armenian Genocide, Ahmet Davutoglu, the chief foreign policy advisor of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tuesday warned the future US administration against recognizing the Armenian Genocide, saying this could hurt a recent thawing of Turkish-Armenian relations and torpedo relations with the United States.
Ahmet Davutoglu, seen as the major architect of the foreign policies of Erdogan’s government, said in Washington that the US should avoid "offending" Turkey to ensure that the reconciliation process with Armenia will continue. "A step in the wrong direction will pose a risk not only to the Turkish-American strategic cooperation but also to Turkey’s efforts to reach out to Armenia," Davutogu told reporters late on Tuesday after a series of talks with US officials.
In Washington Davutoglu had talks with aides of both Obama and McCain. He also met President George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew J. Bryza, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman and Jim Jeffrey, who has been recently appointed the new US ambassador to Turkey.
The Democratic candidate for US president, Senator Barack Obama, has made firm pledges to Armenian-American voters that he will recognize the genocide.
Turkey has repeatedly warned in the past that US recognition of the genocide could have an irreversible impact on Turkish-US ties, newly recovering from a crisis over Iraq. Most Turks favor Obama over his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, who has been far less receptive to Armenian issues during his election campaign so far, but there are concerns over the prospects that the Democratic candidate will keep his promises to Armenian American voters if elected.
Davutoglu said the issue has the potential to generate a crisis in US ties no matter who turns out to be the winner of US elections on Nov. 4. "If the goal is improvement in Turkish-Armenian relations, everyone should avoid steps that would offend Turkey," said Davutoglu in response to a question on concerns over Obama’s pledges to Armenian Americanss. "We have been sharing these thoughts with officials in the United States. I am not saying, ‘we said this to Obama.’ It is important that the new administration know about this."
President Abdullah Gul visited Armenia in September to watch a soccer game between the national teams of the two countries. Talks between officials of the two countries, which have had no ties since 1993, are under way on normalization of relations.
Davutoglu earlier on Tuesday attended a conference on "Turkey, the region and U.S.-Turkey relations: Assessing the challenges and prospects" at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"We want to have the best relations with Armenia,” Davutoglu said in his remarks to the conference. “We don’t see Armenia as a threat or enemy.”
Davutoglu, praised at the conference by former US Ambassador to Turkey, Mark Parris, as "Turkey’s Henry Kissinger," has advocated active and self-confident diplomacy to boost Turkey’s influence in the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Balkans since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) first came to power in 2002. He is the architect behind the Turkish-mediated talks between Syria and Israel, as well as a controversial invitation extended to a Hamas leader in exile to visit Turkey, a move bitterly criticized by the United States and Israel.
Despite concerns over the Armenian issue and challenges stemming from an international row over Iran’s nuclear program, Davutoglu predicted a "success story" in Turkish-US ties in the coming term no matter who is elected to the White House. "The new president will be the best friend of Turkey. The accomplishmen’s Turkey has achieved in foreign policy will be an asset for the United States too," he added.