Turkey not ready to return envoy to Washington: PM

RIYADH, Paul Handley - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday Turkey is not ready to return its ambassador to Washington after a US Congress panel branded the World War I massacre of Armenians as genocide.
"As long as the situation does not get any clearer we will not send back our ambassador to Washington," Erdogan said about the tiff over the Armenia resolution passed by the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
"America should not let go of a strategic ally like Turkey over such an issue," he said.
An infuriated Ankara recalled Ambassador Namik Tan on Thursday, shortly after the panel narrowly approved the non-binding resolution.
The move, opposed by the administration of President Barack Obama, now opens the door for a vote by the full House of Representatives.
Erdogan called the move "a comedy stunt" and blamed the vote on a combination of "unbecoming" voting procedures in the US Congress and a change of attitude by the "Jewish lobby" to back the action.
"The Jewish lobby in the US supported this resolution," he said.
The resolution calls on Obama to ensure that US foreign policy reflects an understanding of the "genocide" and to label the mass killings as such in his annual statement on the issue.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed during World War I by their Ottoman rulers in a planned campaign of extermination as the empire was falling apart, a stance that is supported by several other countries.
The massacres followed a roundup in Istanbul on April 24, 1915, the date on which Armenians each year hold rallies around the world.
Turkey categorically rejects the genocide label. It argues that between 300,000 and 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks were killed in civil strife when Armenians rose up for independence and sided with invading Russian forces.
Ankara is concerned that if the killings are officially labelled genocide by Washington or others, this could possibly open the door to legal claims for restitution by the descendants of those who died, according to some analysts.
In a bid to limit the fallout of the committee's decision, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday the administration would "work very hard" to stop the resolution from going before the full House.
Following US-backed bridge-building talks, Turkey and Armenia signed a deal last October to establish diplomatic relations and open their border.
But the process has already hit the rocks, with Ankara accusing Yerevan of trying to tweak the terms of the deal and Yerevan charging that Ankara is not committed to ratifying the accord.
Meanwhile Erdogan, who was in Riyadh to receive the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam, rejected a new round of sanctions on Iran to halt its alleged drive to acquire nuclear weapons capability.
Washington has been strongly lobbying countries in the Middle East in recent weeks to support a tighter crackdown on companies linked to the Iranian regime and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, to pressure Tehran to give up its nuclear drive.
"I don't believe that any further sanctions will yield results," he told a group of journalists during a talk about Turkey's role in Middle East politics.
"The first and second rounds (of sanctions) have never yielded results."
He also said he believe that Israel was ready to accept Turkey as a mediator in Israeli-Syrian peace talks, frozen since December 2008 when Israel launched a 22 day assault on Gaza.
"There is an interest in revitalising these talks. Syria wants Turkey as the mediator," he said.
"Israel has been moving on this so possibly we can restart talks, I hope," he said.
He added that there were "only a few more sentences" to be sorted out in a peace pact when the talks were suspended nearly 15 months ago.

Wednesday, March 10th 2010
Paul Handley

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