ANKARA (Reuters)—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday warned that a U.S. resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide Monday, endorsed by the House Foreign Affairs committee on March 4, will seriously damage U.S. Turkish relations.
Turkey has expressed its outrage at Thursday’s non-binding vote in the key House committee and recalled its envoy to the United States for consultations.
“The decision of the Foreign Affairs Committee will not hurt Turkey, but it will greatly harm bilateral relations, interests and vision. Turkey will not be the one who loses,” said Erdogan, speaking at a summit of Turkish businessmen.
The Obama administration made a last-minute appeal against the resolution and has vowed to stop the vote, which was broadcast live on Turkish television, from going further in Congress. A Democratic leadership aide told Reuters Friday there were no plans “at this point” to schedule a vote of the full House on the measure, and a State Department official said this was the administration’s understanding as well.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, facing questions about the issue while traveling in Latin America, declared Congress should drop the matter now. “The Obama administration strongly opposes the resolution that was passed by only one vote in the House committee and will work very hard to make sure it does not go to the House floor,” she said in Guatemala City.
Turkey has said the resolution could jeopardize a fragile drive by Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations and lead to further instability in the south Caucasus, a region crisscrossed by oil and gas pipelines to Europe. Turkey’s ambassador to the United States told journalists upon his return on Saturday it was unclear when he would head back to Washington following his talks with the president, prime minister and foreign minister.
“I will return when the time is right … We will have to wait and see,” Namik Tan said. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted in a media report as saying that the consultations could last “a long time.”
The resolution calls on Obama to ensure U.S. policy formally refers to the massacre as “genocide” and to use that term when he delivers his annual message on the issue in April — something Obama avoided doing last year.
Pro-Turkish analysts say the vote may alienate it at a time when there are concerns that its warmer ties with Syria, Iran and Russia, could herald a shift away from its traditional Western allies. Commentators had said the bill could affect Washington’s use of the Incirlik air base in southeast Turkey. Though Turkey denied US forces access to the base in the run-up to the Iraq war, commentators still claim it is vital in logistical support for U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.