January 25, 2008
Source: Haaretz (Israel)
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
The Turkish government is pressuring Israel in an effort to reverse an American Jewish organization's decision to recognize Turkey's massacre of Armenians during World War I as genocide.
A meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Israel's ambassador to Ankara, Pinhas Avivi, became "shrill," according to Foreign Ministry sources in Jerusalem. Gul expressed Ankara's "anger and disappointment" over the matter.
On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League announced that it recognizes the events in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were massacred as "genocide." ADL's national director Abraham Foxman, said he made the decision after discussing the matter with historians and with Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
According to an Israeli ministry source, Gul told the Israeli ambassador that "Turkey knows Israel was not responsible for the Anti-Defamation League's announcement, but is disappointed because Israel could have done something to prevent it."
Avivi replied that Jerusalem was not involved in the ADL's decision and that "there is no change in Israel's position. We are not taking sides, and believe that the parties must hold a dialogue to clarify and investigate the matter and determine what really happened."
A senior Foreign Ministry official told Haaretz Thursday that the main focus now is on calming the situation.
"This is a highly sensitive issue for Turkey, and we have signaled to them that there is no change in our position and that we do not wish to harm the friendly ties between our countries. We believe that they have understood our message," the official said.
The question of the Armenian genocide is being handled at the highest levels of the Turkish leadership, and Foreign Ministry sources noted that President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are planning to discuss the matter with their Israeli counterparts, Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert.
Israel is concerned that the matter may lead to a genuine diplomatic crisis between the two countries, and it has sent quiet signals to American Jewish organizations in an effort to lower the tone. The Foreign Ministry is concerned that the strategic relationship between the two countries could be harmed and that the Jewish community in Turkey could be affected.