The US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was set to consider the issue yesterday, appeared likely to endorse the resolution, paving the way for its consideration by the House of Representatives. Today’s Zaman went to print before the committee meeting.
Hours before the voting, a Turkish official suggested that Ankara could recall its ambassador to the United States if the resolution is adopted. Asked whether Turkey would consider recalling its envoy, a government official said, “All options are on the table.” The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, didn’t exclude the possibility of ceasing support to the United States via a change of regulation regarding the use of İncirlik Air Base in Adana.
Turkey allows the US to use the base as an aircraft refueling hub for the transportation of non-lethal cargo to its troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The base has played a central role as a cargo hub in the US’s war in Iraq.
On Wednesday, President Abdullah Gül initiated a telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama during which he highlighted the probable negative consequences on ongoing normalization efforts between Turkey and Armenia if the resolution is adopted. Gül asked Obama to intervene in the issue, sources close to the presidential office said.
Also hours before the voting on Capitol Hill, US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey, speaking to reporters on Thursday, noted that he has had “no information about the recent situation in Congress.”
Discussing Gül’s telephone conversation with Obama, Jeffrey added, “Turkey’s position regarding the issue was clear,” and said the administration was reviewing what it will do.
A US diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, meanwhile, said Gül’s exchange of views with Obama was “influential” on the US side.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a similar measure in 2007, but it was not brought to the House floor for a vote following intense pressure by then-President George W. Bush. This time, the Obama administration has taken no public position on the measure.
The same US diplomat, speaking on Thursday, suggested that the Obama administration would show its colors on the issue within hours or days.
Following the 2007 committee vote, Turkey promptly recalled its ambassador, and US officials feared Turks might cut off American access to İncirlik. After intensive lobbying by top Bush administration officials, the resolution was not considered by the full House.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said the resolution could damage Turkish-US ties and undermine reconciliation efforts with Armenia. “If it passes, then the Obama administration should try to prevent it from being voted on by Congress,” Davutoğlu has said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will wait to see the result of the committee vote before deciding whether to bring it up for vote. The United States still wants Turkey’s support for its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also is pressing Turkey, which holds a rotating seat in the UN Security Council, to support sanctions against Iran, Turkey’s neighbor.