Turkey warns US over Armenia genocide

Relations with vital US ally on Middle East are shaken by congressional panel's decision
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The Independent Online

Turkey warned the Obama administration yesterday of negative diplomatic consequences if it fails to impede a US resolution branding the 1915 slaughter of Armenians as genocide.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey, a key Muslim ally of the US, would assess what measures it would take, adding that the issue was a matter of "honour" for his country.

Meanwhile, a senior Obama administration official said there was an understanding with the Democratic leadership in Congress that the resolution would not proceed to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

A US congressional committee approved the measure on Thursday. The vote would send the measure to the full House of Representatives, if the leadership decided to bring it up. Minutes after the vote, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to the US.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not answer a question about the diplomatic fallout yesterday. "The Obama administration strongly opposes the resolution that was passed by only one vote by the House committee and will work very hard to make sure it does not go to the House floor," Mrs Clinton told reporters in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks at the time of the First World War, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.

President Obama's administration had been silent about the resolution until shortly before the vote when it said it opposed its passage. Turkey wants stronger action. "The picture shows that the US administration did not put enough weight behind the issue," Mr Davutoglu told reporters. "We are seriously disturbed by the result."

"We expect the US administration to, as of now, display more effective efforts. Otherwise the picture ahead will not be a positive one," he said.