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Turkey act changes stances

Lawmakers wary of Turkey cozying up to Iran may now support resolution on Armenian Genocide.

June 18, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

DOWNTOWN — As U.S. lawmakers continue to take Turkey to task for its support of an aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip, Rep. Adam Schiff is seizing on the discontent to garner more support for his long-stalled resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Fear of angering Turkey, a strategic military ally in the Middle East, has long stood in the way of Congress officially recognizing the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians at the hand of Ottoman Turks as genocide.

But since Turkey has refused to back down from efforts to send supplies to Israel's Gaza Strip, a new crop of U.S. lawmakers say they may now support the Affirmation of the U.S. Record on the Armenian Genocide.

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Turkey supported the flotilla of six ships that were stopped by Israel from bringing aid to Gaza. Nine Turkish citizens died after Israeli commandos boarded the ships ahead of an Israeli blockade. Turkish officials have since condemned Israel and called for an investigation of the incident.

"There will be a cost if Turkey stays on its present heading of growing closer to Iran and more antagonistic to the state of Israel," Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) said at a news conference Wednesday. "It will bear upon my view, and I believe the view of many members of Congress, on the state of the relationship with Turkey."

He added: "They need to understand going forward there's going to be a cost regarding the Armenian resolution."

Schiff, who introduced the resolution, started circulating a letter to colleagues charging that Turkey has become one of Iran's primary defenders and apologists.

Among his examples was Turkey's decision to join with Brazil in what he said was an attempt to frustrate months of diplomacy at the United Nations by announcing a "sham nuclear deal" with Iran.

Turkey has refused to join the international community in support of the latest round of sanctions against Iran.

"I don't want members to vote for this because they're going to punish Turkey," Schiff said. "I would like to have members vote for this because they recognize it's the right thing to do, and I think it's appropriate for them to reconsider their prior view that we should unfailingly carry out Turkey's bidding."

But Hakan Tekin, Turkish consul general in Los Angeles, referred to any recent initiatives to bolster support for the Armenian Genocide resolution as opportunistic and shortsighted.

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