08/24 Zaman: Turkey, Israel in bid to contain damage after ADL move

Turkey, Israel in bid to contain damage after ADL move

Turkish officials voiced "deep disappointment" on Thursday over an influential US Jewish group's labeling of the World War I killing of Anatolian Armenians as genocide, stressing that calling the 1915 incidents genocide has neither historical nor legal grounds.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan expressed concern over the Anti-Defamation League's move during a phone conversation with his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, Israeli officials said. Erdoğan stressed the "futility" of the organization's decision to call the events as genocide in the conversation and Peres responded saying that Israel's well known position on the issue of genocide claims has not changed. The Israeli prime minister also said Israel attached great importance to relations with Turkey and promised to "advocate Turkey's position on the issue in the US."

Separately, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül voiced Ankara's uneasiness and disappointment with the ADL move during a meeting with Israel's outgoing ambassador to Turkey, Pinhas Aviv, who paid a visit to the minister at his office at ministry headquarters on Thursday. Turkish diplomats warned that the ADL statement might have negative impacts on Turkish-Israeli as well as on Turkey-US relations.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League earlier this week reversed its longtime policy by calling the World War I killing of Anatolian Armenians genocide -- a change that comes days after the ADL fired a regional director for taking the same position. ADL Director Abraham Foxman's statement that the killings of Armenians by Muslim Turks "were indeed tantamount to genocide" came after weeks of controversy in which critics questioned whether an organization dedicated to remembering Holocaust victims could remain credible without acknowledging the Armenian killings as genocide.

Israeli news reports said yesterday that Turkish Ambassador Namık Tan was cutting short his holiday in Turkey to return to Israel and express Turkey's concerns over the ADL decision to Israeli officials. But Foreign Ministry officials denied the reports, saying Tan was due to return to work since his vacation ended.

Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen died in a systematic genocide campaign by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, but Ankara categorically rejects the label, saying that both Armenians and Turks died in civil strife during World War I when the Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with Russian troops invading the crumbling Ottoman Empire.

Late on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Levent Bilman said in a statement that there was no "consensus" among scientists and historians that events of World War I constituted genocide, contrary to the ADL's conviction that there is. "Moreover, it is Turkey who has asked Armenia to establish a joint commission and reveal the historical realities. No positive response has yet been made to this offer. The ADL's attempt to rewrite history via a decision it made is constituting a contradiction and its justification cannot be understood," Bilman said, referring to the fact that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian in 2005, inviting him to establish a joint commission of historians and experts from both Turkey and Armenia to study the events of 1915 in the archives of Turkey, Armenia and other relevant countries around the world.

Bilman recalled that the decision announced by ADL Director Foxman also emphasized that they "continue to firmly believe that a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States."

"On the other hand, the Jewish community in our country is a part of our society and there isn't any particularity that they should fear of concerning developments related to the Armenian allegations," Bilman said. "We consider this statement, which also constitutes fairness to the unique position of the Holocaust in the history as well as to memories of its [Holocaust's] victims, as a misfortune and expect it be corrected," he concluded.

Meanwhile in Washington, the US administration made clear that its policy on the Armenian issue remained unchanged. "Our policy remains. It's clear. We mourn the victims of the tragic events of 1915 and call on Turks and Armenians to come to terms with the past through candid and heartfelt dialogue. We oppose attempts to make political determinations on the terminology of this tragedy," Gonzalo R. Gallegos, director of the Office of Press Relations at the State Department, told reporters on Wednesday.

Ankara doesn't exclude the probability of pressure on the ADL from certain US Congress members. Two separate resolutions are pending in the US Senate and House of Representatives urging the administration to recognize the killings as genocide. Turkey has warned that passage of the resolutions in the US Congress would seriously harm relations with Washington and impair cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US administration has said it is opposed to the resolution, but the congressional process is an independent one. In his message on April 24, which Armenians claim marks the anniversary of the beginning of a systematic genocide campaign at the hands of the late Ottoman Empire, US President George W. Bush adhered to the administration policy of not referring to the incident as genocide.

Source: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=120271