Turkey recalls envoy to Sweden over Armenia vote

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ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey recalled its ambassador to Sweden on Thursday and canceled an upcoming summit between the countries after the Swedish parliament branded the World War One killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces genocide.

The move comes only a week after Ankara called home its ambassador to the United States because a U.S. congressional committee approved a similar resolution.

European Union member Sweden has been one of the strongest supporters of Ankara’s bid to join the bloc, while the United States is generally considered a strong western ally of the NATO-member Turkey.

The issue of the Armenian massacres is deeply sensitive in Turkey, which accepts that many Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks but vehemently denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide — a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments.

“We strongly condemn this resolution, which is made for political calculations,” Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement, referring to the Swedish parliament vote.

“It does not correspond to the close friendship of our two nations. We are recalling our ambassador for consultations,” Erdogan said, adding that he was cancelling a Turkey-Sweden summit scheduled for March 17.

The Swedish resolution passed by an extremely narrow margin, with 131 parliamentarians voting in favor and 130 against. Another 88 members of parliament were absent.

The measure was opposed by Sweden’s center-right coalition government, but three of their parliamentarians voted in favor of the motion, helping the opposition get it through.

“Parliament said yes to a multi-party motion which called for Sweden to recognize the 1915 genocide of Armenians, Assyrians/Syrians/Chaldeans and Pontic Greeks,” read a statement on the parliament’s website.

“DRASTIC EFFECTS” ON RELATIONS

Zergun Koruturk, Turkey’s ambassador to Sweden, told Swedish television program Aktuellt that the vote would have “drastic effects” on bilateral relations which were unlikely to be overcome in a short time.

“I am very disappointed,” Koruturk said. “Unfortunately, parliamentarians were thinking that they were rather historians than parliamentarians, and it’s very, very unfortunate.”

A Turkish government source, however, told Reuters that Koruturk would probably return to Sweden soon.

“We know the Swedish government has been very active in trying to stop this resolution,” the source said.

In contrast, Turkey has signaled that its ambassador to the United States will not return until it has clear picture of the fate of the non-binding congressional resolution, which could take weeks.

The administration of President Barack Obama has vowed to stop the resolution from going further in Congress in a bid to limit the diplomatic fallout. Turkey is crucial to U.S. interests in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62A4ZX20100311