- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 24, 2011

TURKISH ANGER AT OBAMA

The Turkish ambassador accused President Obama of pandering to the American-Armenian lobby in weekend remarks, while Armenians denounced him for failing to use the word “genocide” to describe a widely disputed World War I massacre.

“President Obama’s statement is a wrongful, distorted and unilateral political description of history,” Ambassador Namik Tan said of Mr. Obama’s annual remarks Saturday on the eve of the anniversary of what many call the Armenian genocide.

“Such unfair statements will further complicate efforts to find a fair recollection about the common history of Turks and Armenians,” he added. “The USA should not prevent it with unilateral and politically motivated statements.”

Those are harsh words for any foreign ambassador to direct toward an American president, but they reflect growing tension in U.S.-Turkish relations.

Mr. Obama’s statement was similar to the ones he issued two years in a row, when Turkish officials reacted with mild criticism.

Over the past year, however, ties between Washington and Ankara have been strained over Turkey’s diplomatic tilt toward Muslim nations. Relations between the two NATO allies also have been tense over Israel, as Turkey increasingly takes sides with Palestinians.

Mr. Tan unleashed his tirade against Mr. Obama, even though the president avoided using the word “genocide” to describe the killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Turkish Empire in 1915.

Turkey claims the killings resulted from clashes between Turks and Armenians during the war but not from a deliberate policy to wipe out the Armenian people. Turkish officials also note the massacre occurred under the old Ottoman Turks and not the modern republic established in 1923.

Armenian-Americans were angered because Mr. Obama again refused to describe the killings as genocide.

“He has, in addition to betraying his own words and compromising America’s moral standing, gravely disappointed Armenians here in the United States, in Armenia and around the world who had looked to him as an example of courage, conviction and conscience,” said the Armenian National Committee of America.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama promised to describe the massacre as a genocide if he was elected. That promise drew heavy support from Armenian-Americans.

In his Saturday remarks, Mr. Obama referred to “horrific events” and “contested history,” a phrase the Armenian-American committee called “shameful.”

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

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