Turkish legislators are to travel to Washington to lobby members of the U.S. Congress against a draft resolution recognizing the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as genocide, parliamentary sources said Thursday.
Three separate delegations, including members of the ruling Justice and Development Party and the main opposition Republican People's Party, will visit Washington in late February and in March to seek support against the resolution, expected to be debated at the House of Representatives in April.
The Democratic-controlled Congress is widely expected to back the draft, even though the White House is opposed to it, wary over the impact on relations with a key Muslim ally and a NATO member. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said after a visit to Washington this month that passing the draft would "poison" ties and "spoil everything" between the two countries.
In October 2000, a similar draft was pulled from the House floor following an intervention by then president Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush commemorates the massacres each year in a speech, but stops short of calling them genocide.
The parliaments of many countries have recognized the killings as genocide, and Turkey has responded by temporarily downgrading its political and economic ties with some of them.
In a separate development, the suspected murderer of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was hospitalized overnight and underwent surgery for appendicitis, doctors said Thursday. Ogun Samast was reportedly taken to hospital under heavy security measures. Samast, 17, is in good shape after the operation in a state hospital in the northwestern city of Izmit and is expected to be discharged at the weekend, chief physician Senol Erguney told Anatolia news agency.
The suspect, who has confessed to shooting Dink outside the Istanbul office of his bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos on January 19, had been incarcerated in a maximum security prison in the nearby town of Kandira, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Istanbul. Seven other people have been jailed for involvement in the murder, believed to have been committed with ultra-nationalist motives.