ANKARA, Oct 9, 2007 (AFP) - Turkey warned the United States Tuesday that bilateral ties will suffer badly if US lawmakers adopt a bill recognizing the Ottoman massacres of Armenians as genocide.
In a letter to his US counterpart George W. Bush, new Turkish President Abdullah Gul “drew attention to the serious problems that will emerge in bilateral relations if the bill is adopted,” his office said in a statement.
A senior member of the ruling Justice and Development Party has signaled that Ankara could consider barring the United States from a key military base in southern Turkey, which US troops currently use to transport non-combat material to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Both countries are NATO members, though US operations in Iraq are conducted outside of the transatlantic alliance.
The US House Foreign Affairs Committee is expected to debate the genocide bill on Wednesday and if it is approved, Speaker Nancy Pelosi could put it to a vote.
The White House, wary of the bill's likely impact on ties with a key Muslim ally, has opposed the text. The Democrat-controlled Congress is expected to give it strong backing, however.
A similar draft to the resolution before Congress was withdrawn from the House floor in October 2000 after then president Bill Clinton intervened.
Each year Armenians commemorate the massacres Bush has issued statements showing his support, though he has stopped short of calling them genocide.
Turkey categorically rejects claims by Armenians that 1.5 million of them died in systematic deportations and killings during 1915-1917 as the Ottoman Empire was breaking up.
Several countries have recognized the killings as genocide, and Turkey has responded by temporarily downgrading its political and economic ties with some of them.
Turkey maintains that 300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with Russian troops invading the crumbling Ottoman Empire during World War I.