10/19 Jewish Chronicle: Turkey lobbies US on Armenian genocide

Turkey lobbies US on Armenian genocide

18 October 2007

By By Sami Kohen, Ankara

The Jewish community of Turkey is actively campaigning to block a US House of Representatives a draft resolution labelling the mass Ottoman-era killings of Armenians as “genocide”.

Turkey has threatened to take action that would seriously damage US-Turkish relations if the resolution was to pass. The Bush administration has also striven to dissuade Congress from approving the draft.

Despite all these efforts, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted through the resolution last week. The draft goes now to the House floor, where it is likely to be passed unless lobbyists succeed in blocking it.

The controversy relates to the killing of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1922. Turkey insists that both Armenians and Turks died in the context of ethnic conflict.

Ankara has asked Israel and US Jewish organisations for support, and last month Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan met Jewish leaders and lobbyists in New York to get their backing.

Turkish Jews, uneasy about the consequences that the bill might have on attitudes towards them, have contacted US Jewish groups and placed advertisements in the media.

“We have been trying to convince congressmen that it is not right nor wise to pass such a resolution,” said Lina Filiba, vice-president of the Jewish community. “We have been in close touch with the ADL and other Jewish organisations. We hope that, at the end of the day, the resolution will not be passed. It is hard to predict the implications and effects if the House passes the resolution, but it may create problems for everybody.”

Levent Bilman, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “We highly appreciate all these efforts.

“The leaders, businessmen and associations of the Jewish community in Turkey — being an integral part of our society — have been active to prevent the passage of the resolution. They have been holding meetings with the relevant people abroad and publishing letters and statements in the media.”

However, Jewish bodies in the US are divided on the issue.

In August, the ADL faced a split when a regional director was fired because of his campaign to support the Armenian case. An uneasy compromise was finally reached when Abraham Foxman, the national director, stated the ADL accepted the genocide label but rejected the congressional action.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan last week met President Shimon Peres in Israel, after which Mr Peres reportedly urged leading congressmen to consider the ill effects the resolution would have on Turkey’s relations with the US.

“We oppose the controversial resolution not only because of our friendship with Turkey but also as a matter of principle,” said Israeli ambassador Gaby Levy. “It is for historians and not for parliamentarians to investigate [genocide].”

However, he added: “Israel cannot be held responsible if the resolution is passed. This is the decision of the US Congress and not of Israel or the Jews. Our relations should not be affected by such a resolution.”

Source: http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?ParentId=m11s19&SecId=19&AId=56125&ATypeId=1