Washington briefing: Turkey warned against distancing from West

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday November 13, 2009

Morton Abramowitz.

Washington - "Turkey's leaders must not think that they can expand the country's influence without first having a firm footing in the West," Morton Abramowitz, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, and Henri Barkey, a Turkey scholar, warned in an article they cowrote for the journal Foreign Affairs.

The two argued that while there has been much recognition of its economic and political progress "Turkey has not yet become the global, or even regional, player that its government declares it to be."

While Mr. Abramowitz and Mr. Barkey praised the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for taking steps to improve relations with Armenia, they also pointed out that this government "has failed to come to grips with the question of whether the Ottomans' treatment of the Armenians a century ago constituted genocide."

Speaking in Washington in February 2007, Mr. Abramowitz had argued that Turkish officials' denial of the Armenian Genocide and suggestions "that this is an open question that you got to leave it to the historians" were no longer "an effective argument."

"Despite Turkey's Armenian initiative, tensions over the Armenian genocide issue could escalate next year," this month's Foreign Affairs article predicted.

"Ankara's position is getting increasingly difficult to maintain, particularly with a U.S. president who has said repeatedly that he thinks the killings of 1915 amounted to genocide."

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