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Turkey and the US on collision course

Collisions between allies rarely come much bigger than the current spat between the US and Turkey: Ankara has recalled its ambassador to Washington, outraged at a vote in Congress declaring the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 to be genocide.

Collisions between allies rarely come much bigger than the current spat between the US and Turkey: Ankara has recalled its ambassador to Washington, outraged at a vote in Congress declaring the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 to be genocide.

The vote, by the foreign affairs committee of the House of Representatives, has yet to go to a full vote and does not reflect the view of the Bush administration, which lobbied fiercely against it.

Indeed, eight former secretaries of state signed a letter to Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, warning of repercussions for US national security.

Ms Pelosi and the main sponsor of the bill, Adam Schiff, who both represent Californian districts with big Armenian populations, brushed all this aside. Now for the fall-out.

The relationship between these Nato allies had already deteriorated as a result of the US invasion of Iraq and policy in the Middle East. The architects of the Iraq war are still angry about the Turkish parliament`s refusal to allow the US to open a northern front from Turkey`s soil.

Turkey is incensed by the occupation`s consecration of a de facto state in Iraqi Kurdistan, which it believes encourages secession by Kurds in south-east Turkey, and is a base to relaunch insurgency by the Kurdistan Workers` Party.

After the Armenian vote, Ankara is likely to ignore US pleas and send in its forces to flush out the rebels, opening a new front in the multi-sided civil war in Iraq and further destabilising the region.

Turkey may also start to sever links with the US military and deny it the use of the Incirlik base, one of the main conduits for American troops and supplies into Iraq.

But the worst of it is that nine out of 10 Turks are now hostile to the US, whose policies are feeding a revival of rightwing nationalism and radical Islam. These are not problems that will be resolved by gesture politics in the US Congress.

The Turkish republic of Ataturk is not responsible for the atrocities committed against the Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. But nor can it evade this blood-soaked chapter of Turkish history.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, has called on international scholars to establish the facts and offered them access to the Ottoman archives. Nothing has happened because his neo-Islamist government has  been locked in a test of wills with the army - which regards itself as the guardian of national honour.

Modern Turkey needs to settle this account with history. It will not do so if it believes foreigners are out to do down the country resurrected from Ottoman ruins.

This article was monitored by the Action Ukraine Monitoring Service for the Action Ukraine Report (AUR), Morgan Williams, SigmaBleyzer, Editor. 

EDITORIAL: Financial Times, London, UK, Sun, Oct 14 2007

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