ANKARA, Turkey (A.W.)—On March 8, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said in an interview to the Turkish television channel NTV that there is a risk President Barack Obama would recognize the Armenian Genocide. He also warned against such a move, noting it would affect the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia.
“I still see a risk,” he said. “Mr. Obama made the promise five times in a row.” However, he added, “The new American administration understands Turkey’s sensibilities better today.”
According to Babacan,”It would not be rational for a third country to take a position on this topic. A bad step by the United States would only worsen the process” of reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey.
According to the Anatolian News Agency, during a joint news conference after meeting with Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Alejandro Hamed Franco on March 8, Babacan said the genocide issue was on the agenda during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Turkey.
President Obama is scheduled to visit Turkey on April 5.
Obama to Visit Turkey in a Month
On March 7, before meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Clinton announced that Obama would visit Turkey in a month.
“President Obama will be visiting Turkey within the next month or so. The exact date will be announced shortly,” she said during a joint press conference with Babacan.
According to Clinton, Obama’s visit will be “a reflection of the value we place on our friendship with Turkey.”
A senior official from the Obama Administration confirmed recently that Turkey will be the first Muslim country Obama visits since being elected.
Clinton, who is in Ankara to hold talks with high-ranking Turkish officials, said her trip aims at emphasizing the work the U.S. and Turkey must do “on behalf of peace, prosperity, and progress.” According to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, “Diplomatic sources said the efforts to have the U.S. Congress recognize the Armenian claims regarding the 1915 incidents were not discussed in the meeting.”
Also on March 7, the State Department issued a joint statement signed by Clinton and Babacan reaffirming the importance of U.S.-Turkey ties.
According to a BBC correspondent, Turkey will try to ensure Obama does not refer to the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 as “genocide” in his statement on April 24.
On Jan. 19, in a statement on the importance of relations between the U.S. and Armenia, Obama said, “As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
Although there is a wide consensus among Armenian Genocide and Holocaust scholars that the genocide took place, the Turkish state continues to vehemently deny that a state-sponsored campaign took the lives of approximately 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. The Armenians, the official Turkish argument goes, were the victims of ethnic strife, or war and starvation, just like many Muslims living in the Ottoman Empire. Turkey invests millions of dollars in the United States to lobby against resolutions recognizing the genocide and to produce denialist literature. Moreover, many Turkish intellectual who have spoken against the denial have been charged for “insulting Turkishness” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.