Turkish General Sees U.S. Ties at Risk

By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, October 15, 2007

ISTANBUL, Oct. 14 -- The commander of Turkey's armed forces warned that U.S.-Turkish military relations will be irreparably damaged if the U.S. House of Representatives approves a resolution accusing his country of genocide in the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago, according to an interview published Sunday.

"If this resolution passed in the committee passes the House as well, our military ties with the U.S. will never be the same again," Gen. Yasar Buyukanit told the daily newspaper Milliyet in the interview.

The admonition from the senior officer in Turkey's politically powerful military echoed warnings from the country's top civilian political leaders since the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the resolution Wednesday. Turkey argues that the killings and disappearances of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were not genocide but the result of brutal war during the last years of the Ottoman Empire.

"The United States is clearly an important ally," Buyukanit said. "But an allied country does not behave in this way."

Bush administration officials and U.S. military leaders who oppose the resolution say they fear Turkey could limit crucial air and land supply lines into Iraq as punishment if the measure is accepted by the full House of Representatives.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration continued to oppose the resolution, which "may do grave harm to U.S.-Turkish relations and to U.S. interests in Europe and the Middle East."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reaffirmed that the resolution would be called to the floor this week. A similar resolution was pulled from the floor in 2000 by then-Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) after he was asked to do so by President Bill Clinton. Pelosi said she had not heard from President Bush about this bill.

"There's never been a good time" for the measure, Pelosi said on ABC's "This Week," adding that when she entered Congress 20 years ago, "it wasn't the right time because of the Soviet Union. Then that fell, and then it wasn't the right time because of the Gulf War I. And then it wasn't the right time because of overflights of Iraq. And now it's not the right time because of Gulf War II. And, again, the survivors of the Armenian genocide are not going to be with us."

Ross Wilson, U.S. ambassador to Turkey, said in a telephone interview from Ankara, the capital, that "Turkish officials have not discussed with us any specific measures they might take or look at taking if the resolution passes."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dispatched two senior deputies to Ankara on Saturday to assure Turkey that the Bush administration will continue to try to defeat the resolution in Congress.

The Turkish government has recalled its ambassador from Washington and canceled a Turkish-U.S. Business Council conference that had been scheduled for Tuesday in New York. Turkish State Minister Kursad Tuzmen also canceled a trip to the United States planned for this week, according to the Anatolian News Agency.

Turkish anger over the genocide measure has coincided with growing frustration here over U.S. and Iraqi failures to curtail Kurdish separatist guerrillas who Turkish officials say are staging attacks in Turkey from bases in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

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