Turkey warn Obama against 'genocide' recognition

Other News Materials 8 March 2009 18:50 (UTC +04:00)

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Sunday there was a "risk" that US President Barack Obama would recognise the massacre of Armenians a century ago as genocide, AFP reported.

But Babacan said in an interview with the NTV television channel that such a move would only impede efforts to reconcile Turkey and Armenia.

Obama, who is expected to visit Turkey in April, said several times during his election campaign that he would recognise the 1915-1917 massacres under the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

The United States has previously condemned the killings while not calling them genocide to avoid tensions with Turkey, a NATO member and key Middle East ally.

"I still see a risk," Babacan said. "Mr Obama made the promise five times in a row."

He added however that "The new American administration understands Turkey's sensibilities better today" and called on the United States not to interfere in the dispute between the neighbours.

"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.

The two countries offer starkly different accounts of the events, and the dispute has been a major obstacle in relations between Ankara and Yerevan.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million people died between 1915 and 1917 in orchestrated killings as the Ottoman Empire fell apart. More than 20 countries have recognised the killings as genocide.

Turkey rejects the genocide label and argues that between 300,000 and 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with invading Russian troops.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced during a visit to Ankara on Saturday that Obama would visit Turkey "within the next month or so". The visit is expected in April.