Sunday, October 7, 2007

McClatchy: Turkish envoy warns against U.S. genocide resolution

WASHINGTON - Approval of an Armenian genocide resolution by the House
of Representatives would have "very, very unfortunate" consequences
for U.S.-Turkish relations, Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy warned

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider the diplomatically
charged resolution Wednesday. In an interview, Sensoy said "we are
deploying all the efforts that we can" to defeat the nonbinding
measure, which he thinks could unravel a strategic alliance.

"I fear - and expect, in fact - a strong reaction from the Turkish
people," Sensoy said, "and of course no government can remain
indifferent to this reaction."

Introduced by Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif., and Rep. Adam Schiff,
D-Calif., the 1,780-word resolution declares that "the Armenian
Genocide was conceived and carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915
to 1923." Armenians say an estimated 1.5 million died during the

Symbolically, the resolution puts the House on record as
characterizing the Armenian slaughter as genocide. Politically, it has
high visibility in regions with large Armenian-American populations,
including Southern California, California's San Joaquin Valley,
Michigan and New Jersey.

"Silence is genocide's greatest ally, and I am very happy that the
silence regarding the Armenian genocide will be ending next week,"
said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. "It is well past due that the Armenian
genocide finally be recognized as such in our nation."

The last time an Armenian genocide resolution came before the House
Foreign Affairs Committee, in 2005, it was approved 40-7.
Congressional Republican leaders blocked it from reaching the House

The House committee likewise had approved an Armenian genocide
resolution in 2000, and House Republican leaders also killed that

This year, 226 House members publicly support the resolution,
including 23 members of the foreign affairs panel. Nonetheless, Sensoy
said "it will be a close race" Wednesday.

Certainly, no expense is being spared. Justice Department records show
that Turkey signed a $100,000-a-month contract in May with the
lobbying firm DLA Piper, one of several hired to fight the resolution.

Separately, Turkey paid Bob Livingston, former House Appropriations
Committee chairman, $625,000 for work from March 1 to Aug. 31, records
show. Last month, Turkey added the public relations firm
Fleishman-Hillard to its roster at $113,000 a month.

"It is out of necessity, of course," Sensoy said. "On the Armenian
side, many people are working, and we need the lobbying firms to have
certain access on Capitol Hill."

"It is true that what happened in 1915 is a very sad episode in our
common history," he said. "Hundreds of thousands of Armenians
perished. Hundreds of thousands of Turks perished. . . . We don't need
a new generation of people to hate one another."

He said he did "hope and believe" that the committee's chairman, Rep.
Tom Lantos, D-Calif., would oppose the resolution.

Lantos won't tip his hand before Wednesday's committee hearing, said
his spokeswoman, Lynne Weil.

Lantos opposed the 2000 resolution, citing its "substantial negative
effects on our strategic interests in the region."

He voted for the 2005 resolution, to chastise Turkey for stopping the
United States from using the country as a launching pad for the 2003
invasion of Iraq, he said.

"Turkey was not very popular at that point," Sensoy conceded.

Neither is the United States currently very popular in Turkey.

Almost four-fifths of Turks surveyed earlier this year favored "strong
action" by their government if an Armenian resolution passes. More
than 80 percent said they'd oppose Turkey helping out in nearby Iraq.
Many said they'd consider boycotting U.S. products. American exports
to Turkey totaled about $5.4 billion last year.

"If this resolution does pass, the Turkish government and Turkish
people will take it as a personal insult," Sensoy said, while
stressing that he doesn't want to be "misconstrued as threatening"
lawmakers with retaliation.

On Friday, the International Association of Genocide Scholars retorted
in a letter that France and Turkey "are engaged in more bilateral
trade than ever before" despite the French National Assembly's support
for a genocide resolution.

"We would not expect the U.S. government to be intimidated by an
unreliable ally with a deeply disturbing human rights record,"
Genocide Watch founder Gregory H. Stanton and the other scholars

The 62-year-old Sensoy is a veteran diplomat who previously served as
Turkey's ambassador in Moscow and Madrid. He was embassy counselor in
1981 when President Ronald Reagan declared that "like the genocide of
the Armenians before it . . . the lessons of the Holocaust must never
be forgotten." Sensoy called this a "very unwelcome statement," but
noted that other presidents since "have avoided use" of what he termed
"the G word."

Most recently, eight former secretaries of state from both parties
cautioned Congress against the dangers of dictating history.

McClatchy Newspapers 2007


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