AKI, Italy
April 26 2005

TURKEY-US: AIR BASE USE EXTENDED, WARPLANE DEAL CLINCHED, AMID
ARMENIAN COMPLAINTS


Ankara, 26 April (AKI) - Turkey on Tuesday extended permission for
the United States to use a military airbase in Turkish terrirtory - a
decision that follows President George W. Bush's recent praise for
Ankara's proposal for a joint probe with Armenia into the 1915-23
massacre of Armenians, but his reluctance to label the massacre a
genocide carried out by Turks.
Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul announced that US war planes
would be allowed to continue operating from Incirlik Airfield Base,
which the Americans have used for the past 50 years.
The decision was taken by Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan's cabinet, he
said. On Tuesday Ankara signed a 1.1 billion dollar deal with the US
for the Americans to modernise US-made 117 F-16 Turkish warplanes.

On Sunday, US President George W. Bush commemorated the deaths of an
estimated 1.5 million Armenians under Turkish Ottoman rule, praising
a call by Erdogan for a joint Turkish-Armenian commission to
investigate the allegations by Armenians, and many independent
historians, that the deaths were effectively genocide.

However Bush, in his statement on April 24, the 90th anniversary of
the carnage, did not mention the word "genocide" - a fact which has
pleased Ankara, but angered Armenian groups who link the US
president' reluctance to do so to Washington's interest in
maintaining use of the airbase.

Ankara said it viewed Bush's statement on Sunday "positively".
According to reports in the Turkish media, Ankara last week delayed a
decision on the use of Incirlik - also used for supply missions to US
forces in Iraq and Afghanistan - until after the commemoration, to
pressure Bush into not branding the massacre as a genocide.

Turkey, which denies a genocide occurred, says Armenians died but in
much smaller numbers than genocide theorists claim from disease and
other hardships, while being relocated from an areas where they had
been offering military support to Russia, an enemy of Ottoman Turkey
during World War II.

The Armenian Assembly, a US-based group, said it was "extremely
dissatisfied with the President's [Bush] characterisation of the
attempted annihilation of our people by Ottoman Turkey," Seembly
executive director, Bryan Ardouny, said on Tuesday.

Commenting on Bush's use of the expression "great calamity" to
describe the Armenian deaths, Ardouny said this did not go far
enough, and was "a missed opportunity by the President to speak the
truth plainly, to once and for all avoid using evasive terminology
which only serves to support Turkey's state-sponsored denial
campaign."

Earlier this month 210 members of the US Senate and the House of
Representatives from across party divides had urged Bush to properly
acknowledge the Armenian genocide in his statement of remembrance.

Soon after EU leaders agreed last December to open accession talks
with Turkey, the European Parliament urged Ankara to recognise the
1915-1923 killings of Armenians as genocide.

Many in Turkey say that recognising the genocide claims would
encourage Armenians, backed by the EU and the United States, to
achieve their "hidden" agenda - state compensation for the
"so-called" victims including handing over to Armenia land now part
of modern-day Turkey.

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