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12 10 2007 - A perfect diplomatic storm is brewing in Turkey
But in the =hort-term, Mr Erdogan deserves support from abroad for keeping the show on the =oad………
The Independent
11 October 2007 16:35 Leading article: The burden of =istory . Published: 12 October 2007

A perfect diplomatic storm is brewing in Turkey.

This week a =ongressional committee in Washington voted in =avour of a resolution describing the mass slaughter of Armenians by =st1:country-region w:st="on">Turkey in 1915 as genocide. This has predictably gone down badly in Ankara, which refuses to accept that =he killing of 1.5 million Armenians during the First Word War warrants such = label. Turkey is =ow considering withdrawing military co-operation with the =st1:country-region w:st="on">US over Iraq in =esponse.

It gets worse. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been =lanning to introduce a motion to the Turkish parliament sanctioning cross-border =ilitary operations into Iraqi Kurdistan to strike the Kurdish rebel group =perating from there. Such an incursion could destabilise one of the few peaceful =egions of Iraq. The White House is trying to persuade Mr Erdogan not to send in troops, =ut the Armenian resolution in Congress has wiped out Washington's =everage.

It is possible to have some sympathy for Mr Erdogan. He is under huge internal pressure to act over the Kurdish situation. The killing of 15 Turkish =oldiers has turned Turkish public opinion in favour of cross-border military =ction. And Mr Erdogan must be wary of the hostile Turkish military =stablishment. Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development party won national elections this =ear, but the charge of neglecting national security and refusing to stand up for =urkey abroad would be a potent one.

There is no simple way out of this morass. Yet there is some hope. There is no =eason to believe that Mr Erdogan wants to alienate Turkey's allies in the US =nd the EU by invading Kurdistan. And the motion =efore the Turkish parliament would allow an incursion any time within the next =ear. This opens a window for the US to put pressure on the Kurdish government to clamp down on the rebels =perating from within its borders.

In the long term, Turkey needs to accept the terrible stain that the Armenian slaughter has left =n its national history. Regardless of whether these events are called genocide =r not, there is scant evidence of this acceptance so far in =st1:country-region w:st="on">Turkey. A negotiated settlement with the Kurdish separatists, who represent up to = fifth of the population, is also long overdue.

But in the short-term, Mr Erdogan deserves support from abroad for keeping the =how on the road. The alternatives for the international community at the moment =re significantly worse. The Armenian genocide and Kurdish separatism are ultimately issues that Turkey must come to terms with. But the rest of the world could – and =hould – be doing more to make things easier for the moderates in =st1:City w:st="on">Ankara in the =rocess.


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