Turkish general warns of damage to U.S. ties

Monday, October 15, 2007

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Turkey's top general warned that ties with the U.S., already strained by attacks from rebels hiding in Iraq, will be irreversibly damaged if Congress passes a resolution that labels the World War I-era killings of Armenians a genocide.

Turkey, which is a major cargo hub for U.S. and allied military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations and warned that there might be a cut in the logistical support to the U.S. over the issue.

"If this resolution passed in the committee passes the House as well, our military ties with the U.S. will never be the same again," Gen. Yasar Buyukanit told the daily Milliyet newspaper.

Despite the general's strong words, it is not clear how far Turkey will go to express its dismay to Washington.

Turkey suspended its military ties with France last year after the French parliament's lower house adopted a bill that would have made it a crime to deny that the Armenian killings constituted a genocide.

But there is more at stake for NATO's only Muslim member when it comes to its relations with the U.S. The Turkish military, and especially the air force, is heavily dependent on the American defense industry, experts say.

Still, when Washington imposed an arms embargo against Turkey in 1975 due to a dispute over Cyprus, Turkey ended all its logistical support to U.S. troops and sharing of intelligence until the embargo was lifted, said Onur Oymen, the country's former permanent representative to NATO.

President Bush has said the resolution is the wrong response to the Armenian deaths, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the measure's timing was important "because many of the survivors are very old."

In an interview broadcast Sunday with ABC's "This Week," Pelosi noted that the resolution would make the U.S. the 24th country to label the killings a genocide.

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the measure was "irresponsible."

"Listen, there's no question that the suffering of the Armenian people some 90 years ago was extreme. But what happened 90 years ago ought to be a subject for historians to sort out, not politicians here in Washington," he told "Fox News Sunday."

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