Turkey pulls envoy after U.S. vote on "genocide" label
Susan Cornwell And Arshad Mohammed – 1 hr 31 mins ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. congressional panel voted on Thursday to label as "genocide" the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador from Washington.
The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 to approve the non-binding resolution, which calls on President Barack Obama to ensure U.S. policy formally refers to the killings as genocide.
The action cleared the way for the measure to be considered by the full House but it was unclear whether it would actually come to a vote there. The Obama administration and Turkey had pressed lawmakers to drop the matter.
The vote triggered an immediate condemnation from Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who recalled Turkey's ambassador to Washington for consultations. Erdogan said he worried the measure would harm Turkish-U.S. ties and efforts by Muslim Turkey and Christian Armenia to end a century of hostility.
The vote put Obama in a tight spot between his desire to maintain good relations with Turkey, a Muslim but secular democracy that plays a vital role for U.S. interests from Iran to Afghanistan to the Middle East.
On the one side is NATO ally Turkey, which rejects calling the events genocide. On the other side is an important U.S. Armenian-American constituency and their backers in Congress ahead of congressional elections in November.
ARMENIA HAILS VOTE
"We highly appreciate the decision," Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian told Reuters. "This is further proof of the devotion of the American people to universal human values and is an important step toward the prevention of crimes against humanity."
The price on Turkey's 2030 benchmark Global Bond did not change after the vote. It remained down 0.44 points in price to 160, yielding 6.465 percent.
"I don't think there will be any reaction in the markets unless the political response from Turkey elevates it as an issue," said A.J. Mediratta, senior managing director at Greylock Capital Management in New York.
"Clearly the U.S. administration didn't want this to come to a head and I think the Turkish government understands this. If there is a reaction, it will come at the London open tomorrow."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, a fellow Democrat, on Wednesday to argue the measure could harm efforts to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations, the White House said.
Turkey and Armenia signed a protocol last year to normalize relations but it has yet to pass through the parliament of either country. Obama called Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Wednesday to urge quick ratification, the White House said.
Despite Clinton's appeal, Berman went ahead with a committee debate and a vote. He said Turkey was a "vital" ally but "nothing justifies Turkey's turning a blind eye to the reality of the Armenian genocide."
Turkey accepts that many Armenians were killed by Ottoman forces but denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide -- a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Bases in New York and Zerin Elci in Ankara; Editing by Matt Spetalnick and John O'Callaghan)