- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2010

TURKEY STILL ANGRY

Turkey remains angered over a congressional resolution recognizing the killings of Armenians in 1915 as genocide, threatening this week to keep its new ambassador to the United States at home until the measure is defeated.

“We will not send our ambassador back unless we get a clear signal of the situation, regarding the draft law of the Armenian claims,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters this week on a visit to Saudi Arabia, mistakenly referring to the nonbinding resolution as a law.

Mr. Erdogan recalled Ambassador Namik Tan after the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 on March 4 to approve the resolution and send it to the full House for a vote. Mr. Tan had arrived in Washington only days before his recall.

The Turkish government apparently is not assured by the Obama administration’s strenuous objections to the resolution. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters last week that the White House “strongly opposes” the resolution.

“We will work very hard to make sure it does not go to the House floor,” she promised.

The resolution accused the old Ottoman Turkish Empire of deliberately trying to exterminate Armenians in a genocidal campaign from 1915 to 1923. The government of the modern Turkish republic, which replaced the Ottoman regime in 1923, objects to the characterization of the massacre as genocide and insists that Armenia has inflated the casualties. The House resolution refers to 1.5 million Armenians killed and 500,000 expelled from their homes.

Turkey has relied on its membership in NATO and its strategic importance to the West to defeat similar genocide resolutions in the past.

OFFER TO RETURN

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren says he would eagerly return to the University of California at Irvine (UCI), where pro-Palestinian demonstrators shouted him down last month in a protest captured on the Internet, if Israel’s critics there would “respect the decorum of dialogue and free speech.”

In an open letter to the Southern California university, Mr. Oren this week noted that his attempts to explain Israel’s position on Middle East peace talks were met with shouts of “war criminal” and “murderer” by what he called “rabble-rousers” who disrupted his speech.

“I was fully aware that the climate on many American campuses is critical and sometimes even hostile to Israel …,” he wrote. “Yet for precisely that reason, I wanted to speak at UCI. While it would have been far easier to engage students who agreed with Israel’s politics, I much preferred an exchange with students of opposing viewpoints.”

He said his attempt to “exchange ideas” was “hijacked by a minority of students.”

“The tragic fallout from this lecture is that those impassioned individuals most needing exposure to the Israeli perspective … chose not to listen but rather to disrupt the event,” he said.

Mr. Oren noted that the videos of the entire affair have “proliferated on the Internet.” A YouTube video shows students shouting at the ambassador and police arresting the troublemakers, as students applauded. Some reports said the protesters were members of the campus’ Muslim Students’ Association.

NAFTA WORRIES

The U.S. ambassador to Canada is predicting that a congressional bill to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement will be defeated and urging business leaders in Ottawa to relax.

Ambassador David Jacobson told members of the Canadian Club at a luncheon that NAFTA opponents in Congress have tried several times to get the United States out of the trade pact.

“I believe that in the NAFTA agreement, every five years there is a possibility of withdrawal,” he said. “Every five years there are a handful of members of Congress that support this initiative, but I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Tuesday admitted that his government is concerned by the bill that has 27 co-sponsors, including three Republicans.

“We’re always worried about protectionist tendencies,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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