Minutes after US lawmakers voted to define the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 as genocide, the angry Turkish PM recalled his ambassador and warned this could potentially harm relations between the two NATO allies.
"Denial is the final stage of genocide" is a quote by Gregory Stenton, president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. The quote has been published in an excellent article called State of Denial from 2008, to be found on the association's website. Then as now, Turkey perceived a classification as genocide for what happened in Armenia as a threat to its identity. In 2008, the country lobbied extensively in order to influence the outcome, and it succeeded. The committee then, and president Bush as well, hid their thoughts behind public statements saying that one could not correctly judge the situation as it was then.
Turkey was appeased. Yet this time around, in 2010, Turkey is angry because a similar committee of US lawmakers has voted 23 to 22 for a classification as genocide, saying that Turkey has to live up to its history just as Germany has done.
According to France 24 quoting Reuters, what has happened now is this: NATO member Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States for consultations after a vote in a U.S. congressional committee on Thursday branded the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide.
In a statement, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan also said he was seriously concerned that the non-binding resolution would harm Turkish-U.S. ties.
This although the vote is more or less symbolic, as it is non-binding, but Turkey does fear that president Obama may make good on his campaign promise: "As President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide." As candidate he said this on Jan. 19, 2008, and the waiting is now for what he will say in 2010 as the president.
The above cited article State of Denial makes for very good reading, as it exposes that Turkey has spent significant amounts of money on lobbyists and dissident scholars to promote his own version of the events, which denies that the 1915 massacres and deportations were genocidal ethnic cleansing. In the Turkish view, it simply a war in which errors were sometimes made.
However, most scholars and historians are in full agreement that more than a million Armenians were exterminated, others forced to flee into permanent exile. And that is exactly what the recent committee agreed with.
At present, there are a mere 20 nations in the world who also recognize the Armenian genocide. Israel is not one of these, yet it seems that public and official opinion are presently changing on the question.
Update: A few hours later, the BBC reports that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this: "We are against this decision. Now we believe that the US Congress will not take any decision on this subject."