Clinton says "genocide" issue best left to scholars
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday sidestepped a delicate dispute between two allies over the World War I-era killing of Armenians in Turkey and said the issue was best left for scholars to discuss, Today's Zaman reported.
Clinton was asked why the United States has not matched a move by French lawmakers to criminalize denial that the killings were "genocide". The French legislation has enraged Turkey, which has threatened sanctions if French President Nicolas Sarkozy signs the bill.
The US administration has avoided calling the killings "genocide" despite support for recognition by both Clinton and President Barack Obama when they were senators.
Clinton said the administration was wary of compromising free speech. She said the issue was best left for scholars.
"To try to use government power to resolve historical issues, I think, opens a door that is a very dangerous one to go through," Clinton said at an event with US State Department employees.
Armenians claim up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first "genocide" of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted "genocide", saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.
The issue has also previously roiled US-Turkish relations. A move by a US congressional panel in 2010 to advance a resolution by the House of Representatives recognizing the killings as "genocide" caused Turkey to temporarily withdraw its ambassador to Washington.
The resolution was opposed by the Obama administration. Ultimately, the full House of Representatives did not bring the measure up for a vote.
Clinton said Thursday that the issue should be debated, but not settled by governments.