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Turkey gives muted reaction after Clinton visits Yerevan memorial

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 7/6/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Ankara has conveyed its annoyance to Washington over Hillary Clinton’s visit to the genocide memorial in Yerevan, but has chosen to steer clear of exhibiting a bigger reaction since the secretary of state’s visit was personal and did not produce any official remarks

Turkey conveyed its annoyance to Washington after the U.S. Secretary of State visited Yerevan’s memorial to the victims of 1915, but refrained from making any public remarks on Armenia’s genocide claims.

“The visit to the monument was a private program and [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton did not make any official remarks. Anyway, we conveyed our annoyance,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in an interview Tuesday.

Clinton made an unofficial visit to the Armenian genocide monument in Yerevan on Monday during her tour of the southern Caucasus.

According to official protocol in Armenia, foreign guests first visit the genocide memorial when on official business. After her arrival from Azerbaijan, however, Clinton did not proceed immediately to the memorial, instead meeting with Armenian President Serge Sarkisian and touring Yerevan.

Clinton paid her surprise visit to the memorial before she departed for Georgia on Monday. International news agencies did not carry photos of her visit, which were leaked by Armenian sources to the Internet.

Clinton has preferred to take a balanced stance on genocide allegations, although her party gave signals in favor of Armenian allegations during the last election campaign. The House of Representatives' foreign affairs committee voted 23-22 in favor of a resolution in March that labeled the 1915 massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians as “genocide."

Clinton, however, said both she and U.S. President Barack Obama opposed the committee vote and wanted to see the process stopped.

She said any action by Congress was inappropriate. "I do not think it is for any other country to determine how two countries resolve matters between them, to the extent that actions that the United States might take could disrupt this process," Clinton said after the House vote.

Known for his hard-line nationalist views, Haykazun Alvrstyan from Dashnakszutyun’s (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) Yerevan bureau told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that Clinton’s visit to the genocide memorial was an important step, especially the fact that Clinton's title was written on the wreath that she laid during the ceremony.

“The title 'U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton' on the wreath was a very important political message to Turkey," he said, adding that Clinton’s visit proved that the United States has never denied the Armenian genocide as a fact. “The U.S. will officially recognize the genocide soon,” he said.

* Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review correspondent Vercihan Ziflioğlu contributed this report from Istanbul bureau.

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