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Turkish envoy to return to Washington

By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert, CNN
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed optimism about his country's future relations with the U.S.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed optimism about his country's future relations with the U.S.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ambassador Namik Tan will to return to Washington next week; month after recall
  • "I wish that these positive developments continue in April," PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • Turkey denies a "genocide" took place in the last days of the Ottoman Empire
  • Armenians observe a remembrance day on April 24 in honor of the killings

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkey's prime minister announced Friday he will send his country's ambassador back to Washington next week.

The announcement comes nearly a month after Ankara recalled its diplomat to protest the passage of a non-binding resolution in the House Foreign Relations Committee, which calls the 1915 massacre of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians in Ottoman Turkey "genocide."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ambassador Namik Tan would return to Washington, ahead of his own trip to attend a nuclear non-proliferation summit in the United States in mid-April.

During an appearance before Turkish television cameras on Friday, Erdogan was asked whether the diplomatic crisis between the two NATO allies was now over.

"Our foreign minister and the U.S. foreign minister talked earlier. There are certain positive developments," Erdogan responded, referring to last Sunday's phone conversation between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

"I wish that these positive developments continue in April."

Video: Genocide vote upsets Turkey
RELATED TOPICS
  • Turkey
  • Genocide
  • Sweden
  • U.S. Government

Last month, the Turkish government also recalled its ambassador from Sweden for several weeks after the Swedish parliament passed its own law recognizing the Armenian massacres as genocide.

One columnist in the Turkish press joked that at this rate, Turks could form a new soccer team made up of ambassadors recalled from foreign capitals.

Turkish officials have defended the decision.

"We are opposed to the legislation of history," said Burak Ozugergin, the spokesman for Turkey's foreign ministry, in a telephone interview with CNN on Friday. "This should be done by historians, by qualified people."

Turkey officially denies a genocide took place in the last days of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Ankara argues instead that Muslim Turks and Christian Armenians massacred each other on the killing fields of World War I.

But every year on April 24, Armenians around the world observe a remembrance day in honor of the "genocide". Historians have extensively documented the Ottoman military's forced death march of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians into the Syrian desert in 1915. The massacres decimated the Armenian population in what is modern-day eastern Turkey.

For years, the government in Yerevan and influential Armenian diaspora groups have mounted a campaign to persuade other countries to formally label the events of 1915 "genocide."

The Turkish government will be listening closely on April 24, to see whether President Barack Obama will use the word "genocide" in an annual speech commemorating the 1915 massacres.

Last month, Prime Minister Erdogan triggered a firestorm of domestic criticism from both pro- and anti-government commentators, however, when he suggested during an interview with the BBC's Turkish service that his government might deport citizens of neighboring Armenia illegally working in Turkey.

"Tomorrow, I may tell these 100,000 [Armenians] to go back to their country, if it becomes necessary," Erdogan was reported to have said.

He has since accused the foreign media of misrepresenting his remarks.

 
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