Washington briefing: Obama hears about Armenia from Turkish leaders

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Thursday February 19, 2009

President Barack Obama in his private study on Feb. 3, 2009. White House photo by Pete Souza

Washington - President Barack Obama had "wide-ranging" phone discussions with Turkey's president and prime minister, the White House reported on February 16. President Obama initiated the calls to "emphasize his desire to strengthen U.S.-Turkish relations" and to discuss specific U.S. concerns related to its Middle East priorities.

According to Turkish media, President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan both raised Turkey's opposition to U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. During the election campaign, Mr. Obama pledged that as president, he would recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Turkish media claimed that in response Mr. Obama welcomed the recently intensified dialogue between Armenia and Turkey. According to Mr. Erdogan's office, Mr. Obama added that "America always understands Turkey's sensitivities."

The White House read out of the conversation made no mention of Armenian concerns and, as of press time, the White House had not responded to the Armenian Reporter's request for clarification.

Meanwhile, Mr. Erdogan again lashed out at Israel, questioning Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's credibility. His remarks came after the outgoing head of the Israeli government attempted to explain why, during a visit to Turkey just days before launching the Gaza operation, he did not tell Mr. Erdogan about Israel's military plans, Zaman newspaper reported on February 19.

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