Turkish envoy won't return if U.S. labels Armenian deaths 'genocide'

By Janine Zacharia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 23, 2010; 5:43 PM

ANKARA, TURKEY -- Turkey will not send its recalled ambassador back to Washington until the Obama administration and Congress make clear they will not judge Turkish history, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday.

The country recalled its envoy, Namik Tan, last month after the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution labeling Turkey's killings of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 a genocide.

"We cannot accept the judgment of members of the foreign relations committee, who do not know anything about the history," Davutoglu said in an interview in Ankara.

Davutoglu set two conditions for Tan's return: The administration and Congress must show they will refrain from deciding what he called "our history," and the two countries "should agree to develop our strategic alliance," he said.

As a Muslim NATO member and a close U.S. ally, Turkey is crucial to efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and develop Iraq. President Obama visited the country almost a year ago and has broken a campaign pledge to refer to the 1915 killings as "genocide" so as not to impede reconciliation talks between Armenia and Turkey, which have since stalled.

Turkish officials are waiting to see how Obama will phrase a statement April 24, the anniversary of the start of the killings.

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