Formal backing of the claims by the US administration could mean a major blow to ties between NATO allies Turkey and the United States. Turkey categorically denies genocide charges, saying instead Turks and Armenians died in a civil conflict during World War I years when Armenians took up arms against the Ottoman state in collaboration with the Russian army, which was then invading eastern Anatolia, in hope of creating an independent Armenian state.
"The Armenian issue is just one factor in the Turkish-US ties if everything else goes well," Sedat Laçiner, head of the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (ISRO/USAK), was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. "But if problems emerge, the Armenian question could put oil on fire and we may suddenly see fires engulfing the ties," he added.
US presidents have so far refused to call the World War I events genocide and no US administration has supported efforts in the US Congress to recognize the alleged genocide, fearing it will harm ties with Turkey. But Obama's position may be different. The Democratic candidate for president has pledged to Armenian groups during his election campaign that he will back the genocide claims if elected president.
"Possibilities that Obama will back the genocide claims are still not big, but compared to President George W. Bush, the risk is greater," said Şanlı Bahadır Koç, an expert on Turkish-American relations at the Center for Eurasian Studies Center (ASAM). He said Obama would be under pressure to keep his words to the Armenian groups if he is elected. But there will also be others on his team telling him about the importance of good ties with Turkey. "It is difficult to say who will win in this," he said.
Contrary to Obama, Republican candidate John McCain is known to be opposing efforts for US recognition of the genocide claims. Koç said a problem between Turkey and the US on the Armenian issue is unlikely if McCain is elected.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Haziran 2008, 08:01