Press Roundup: Turkish newspapers on US genocide vote

How do the Turk’s view Congress’s resolution? Jennifer Amur examines the outrage and anger

A relatively minor victory in the US Congress for Armenians who claim that 1.5 million of their ancestors were killed by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 triggered indignant headlines across Turkish media Friday.

For years, Armenia and the Armenian diaspora have been lobbying Washington to recognise the deaths as genocide, a move they believe will force Turkey into recognising the massacre and, some say, paying reparations with money and land in eastern Anatolia.

The panel vote by the Committee on Foreign Affairs has few if any practical implications, but it caused a backlash from Turkey, which said the result dealt a deathblow to its ongoing normalization process with Armenia.

Turkish newspaper headlines after the vote reflected a predictable outrage; Turkey has long denied that genocide occurred, arguing instead that both Turks and Armenians were killed in civil strife during the last days of the Ottoman Empire.

Daily Hürriyet, one of the country’s largest newspapers, led with news that Turkey recalled its ambassador for consultations immediately after the vote. Before the vote, the Turkish foreign ministry had warned that everything was “on the table,” including recalling the ambassador and cutting back in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Namık Tan’s recall made headlines in several of the country’s dailies, but Milliyet went further, with views from experts who compared the situation to Russia’s recognition of the genocide.

After Russia recognised the genocide in the 1990s, Turkey continued to develop bilateral relations, and ties grew in the following years. The experts in the Milliyet story asked why the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, couldn’t respond similarly to the United States, which often cites Turkey, a NATO member, as an important ally in the Middle East. The US maintains an Air Force base in a Turkish city near Iraq, and Turkey has mediated peace talks between Syria and Israel.

Daily Vatan took a different approach, focusing instead on committee Chairman Howard Berman, who was very vocal in his support for the resolution, and his influence on the vote. The story alleged that the chairman ruled to extend the voting time in order to sway the result.

Other newspapers blamed the result on the Obama administration, which just a few minutes before the session advised the panel to take no action on the resolution. Several dailies asserted the administration was too late and too weak in its opposition.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday that the vote was not aligned with the administration’s policy of not intervening in the countries’ negotiations. Part of the plan to establish diplomatic ties is the creation of an expert commission to investigate the genocide claims, but this and several other parts of plan have been criticized by those who say impartiality by “experts” endorsed by either country on this issue is next to impossible.

Jennifer Amur is a Web editor at the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in Istanbul