Turkey pulls envoy after 'genocide' vote

March 5, 2010 at 9:41 AM
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ANKARA, Turkey, March 5 (UPI) -- Turkey recalled its U.S. ambassador after a House committee approved a resolution that uses "genocide" to describe the mass deaths of Armenians in World War I.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs narrowly approved a non-binding resolution 23-22 Thursday, formally calling on President Barack Obama to characterize the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during World War I as genocide, the online Christian Science Monitor reported Friday.

The vote proceeded despite pleas against it from the White House and State Department, and sparked a withering response from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"We condemn this resolution accusing Turkey of a crime that it had not committed," Erdogan's office said in a statement. "Our ambassador to Washington, Namik Tan, was recalled tonight (Thursday) to Ankara for consultations after the development."

Ankara said the resolution's passage could fracture relations with Washington and jeopardize the delicate reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia.

"Turkish-U.S. relations are experiencing their most successful period in history," Erdogan said Tuesday. "I hope that they will not be damaged by such initiatives."

Since the resolution passed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must decide whether to bring it to the floor, the online publication said.

Armenians said Ottoman Turks systematically killed up to 1.5 million Armenians during the war. Turkey has denied the genocide claim, saying the number of Armenians killed was much lower and resulted from violence that affected a number of groups at the time.

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