ANKARA—In April, 2009 the US Ambassador to Turkey said that Turkey’s ultra-nationalist opposition leader wanted President Obama to recognize the Armenian Genocide and end the annual speculation game that occurs every April in Turkey and the US, according to a confidential cable publicized by WikiLeaks.
In the confidential cable then US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey recounts a meeting with the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahceli, who used the larger topic of the strategic partnership between US and Turkey to “address the issue of US political debate concerning the Armenian genocide issue.” (Note the ambassador’s use of the word genocide in the memo).
“His challenge to the US to finally put the Armenian genocide issue to rest reflects a wide perception that genocide is being used as a political tool: a large swathe of Turkish society believes that the US intends eventually to declare the events of 1915 to constitute genocide, but maintains the fiction of debate as leverage in negotiations with the Turkish government,” said Jeffery in his cable.
“In strong, emotional, but not angry terms, Bahceli said that the US and Turkey were on a mutually-detrimental cycle, in which the months leading up to the April 24 Day of Remembrance fuel debate over whether it will be this year that the US president will utter the word ‘genocide,’” said Jeffrey. “According to him [Bahceli], this foments an atmosphere of anti-Americanism, particularly among the youngest generation of voters who have experienced this political tension every year of their lives.”
“’Whatever the US is going to say, let it be said now,’ pleaded Bahceli, rather than let the issue continue to be a festering sore in Turkish-American relations,” explained Jeffrey.
“Bahceli’s challenge is also undeniably self-serving; the MHP stands to benefit most at the polls from the emotional reaction that a US recognition of an Armenian genocide would bring. He would lead the charge to trash relations with the US were we to use the term ‘genocide.’ He has been trying to make political hay, claiming the President’s use of ‘Meds Yeghern’ equates to ‘genocide’ ever since the President’s Armenian Remembrance Day message,” concluded Jeffrey.