Turkey downplays Armenian rug exhibition in White House

Turkey downplays Armenian rug exhibition in White House

Sevil Erkuş ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey downplays Armenian rug exhibition in White House Turkey has downplayed a the White House’s decision to exhibit an Armenian “orphan rug,” a move that could be interpreted as a diplomatic message as debates between the U.S. and Turkey heat up over the latter’s stance regarding the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Ankara does not link the decision to exhibit the rug, also known as the “Ghazir Rug,” as a step to responding to certain political demands of the Armenians, a Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“The rug that will be displayed with two other gifts in the entrance of the White House should not be interpreted as the U.S. developing an attitude of taking sides with Armenian arguments,” the official said.

The rug will be displayed as part of an exhibition titled “Thank You to the United States: Three Gifts to Presidents in Gratitude for American Generosity Abroad,” which will be held on Nov. 18-23.

Bernadette Meehan, the U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman, stated on Oct. 15 that the rug was woven by 14,000 Armenian orphans in 1920 and presented to then-U.S. President Calvin Coolidge in 1925.

Citing transportation risks, the White House last year passed up on displaying the rug, which represents the mass killings of Armenians under Ottoman rule in 1915-16. Armenians and many historians say the killings amounted to a campaign of genocide.

Referring to the U.S. spokesperson’s statement on this year’s exhibition, the Turkish official drew attention to the expression “assistance rendered by the American people to displaced Armenian orphans,” saying that this showed the U.S. was preventing the gift from being exploited by circles that aim to politicize the issue.

The U.S. administration did not allow the rug to be linked to the 1915 incidents despite the pressure by the Armenian diaspora, the official said, adding that even the Armenian press and prominent Armenian diaspora representatives found the move “ambivalent and insincere.”

Relations between Turkey and the U.S. are unusually tense at the moment, with Turkey ruling out a weekend statement by Washington claiming that Turkey had granted permission for the use of its İncirlik base for attacks on ISIL.