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Saturday, 23 September, 2000, 21:05 GMT 22:05 UK
Turkey angry at US Armenian genocide move
US warplane over eastern Turkey
Northern Iraq overflights from Turkey under threat
The Turkish Government has reacted angrily to a US Congress move to designate the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman forces in 1915 as an act of genocide.

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told reporters on Friday that this was "an example of the US administration not having sufficient control over its representatives".

Foreign Minister Ismail Cem warned of possible sanctions against the US in the event of the resolution being passed by Congress.

The human rights sub-committee resolution would call on the president to mark Armenian Genocide Day in April and ensure that it was taught in schools like the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews.

However, it would be non-binding, and approval first by the full Foreign Relations Committee and then by Congress is uncertain.

The French National Assembly recognised the genocide on 29 May, although the French Government did not endorse the move.

Turkey warned of dire consequences, but the issue blew over.

Sanctions weighed

Turkish diplomatic sources in Washington warned that Turkey was considering dropping the Northern Watch flights over northern Iraq, increasing ties with Baghdad and cancelling orders for US military helicopters.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem
Ismail Cem has warned of sanctions
Despite bellicose noises by Turkish politicians of all hues, the Turkish press has counselled caution.

Milliyet newspaper said on Saturday that the bill was sponsored by the large Armenian community in the US to press Turkey for financial compensation and the return of provinces granted to Armenia in 1919 but later recaptured as Armenia fell to the Soviet Army.

Hurriyet newspaper said sanctions might lead the US to abandon the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which is a lifeline for Turkey's ally, Azerbaijan - itself in a more serious stand-off with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

It also remarked that campaigns for Congressional recognition of the genocide tended to coincide with US presidential electioneering and subside thereafter.

Patriarch's warning

Armenia itself has maintained a diplomatic silence on the matter, but the head of the small Armenian community in Turkey, Patriarch Mesrob II of Constantinople, appealed to US Congressmen not to interfere in a matter "for Turkish and Armenian historians".

Pointing out that Armenians in Turkey still suffer from various legal handicaps, he said: "It would be an illogical mistake to use us as hostages for negative developments abroad."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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